Why your Southern Rail service was delayed today – 09/09/2013

At 05:25 on 9th September 2013 a person was hit by a train near East Croydon station.  They were hit by the London Victoria to Brighton service.  The police, ambulance service and Network Rail attended the incident, and as the media like to put it, there was ‘chaos’ on the railway.

Throughout today I have seen people pour scorn on Southern Rail on twitter, and also heard people complaining at various stations.  There seems to be not only a complete lack of understanding, but also a huge lack of compassion.

Let me make this as simple as possible for those who think that abusing members of Southern Rail staff through twitter is acceptable.  This morning, someone died.  Someone believed that their Monday was so bad it was no longer worth living for.  They believed that they were such a worthless human being, that they were so hated and unloved that they would end their life.  They saw no way out of their situation and problems, that they believed their only relief would come from a public act of suicide.  This is the key element of the entire situation.

The key element is not that some people were late for work.

I’m no railway engineer.  I do not work for Southern or Network Rail, I just happen to be a fairly well educated person who is also not ignorant of their surroundings.  I do have some idea of how the infrastructure of the railway works and how it is far harder than a majority of regular commuters would believe, to actually keep a network running.  This post might use a few comparisons, unfortunately I think the only way to get through to some people is to bring it down to the lowest of the low common denominators.

So, 12 hours after the event your service was still delayed, and this has made some people really angry, especially on Twitter.

twitter01

I will make an attempt to explain two reasons why this happened.  And the link referred to above is available here: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/maps/East_Croydon.pdf

Rolling stock displacement.

This is exactly as it sounds.  The rolling stock is elsewhere.  That’s not a hard concept to take on board.  The incident of someone being hit by a train happened early in the morning before much rolling stock was on the move.  Where I get my services from is a perfect example of this.  I live on a branch line, and in order for there to be up services to London, down services have to have taken place.  By the time I came to wanting a train service at 06:30 this morning, no services had made their way to the end of the line except for the last couple from the night before.  Once they had made their slow way up the line, there was nothing left.  This doesn’t just happen on branch lines, this can happen on mainlines too where the depot is behind the point of the incident, therefore rolling stock cannot move.

What do people expect Southern Rail to do in that circumstance?  Do commuters really think that a Train Operating Company (TOC) can just magic some trains out of nowhere?  Where do you people think they get the trains from, and how do you think they get there?  Those trains don’t do magical dances or use teleporters when you’re not on them, they have to go on the same lines and on the same routes as they would if they were carrying you as a paying customer.  This is a particular issue on branch lines.  These lines have an end, and nothing can get up to that end from, say, further south because there are no rails to enable this, therefore services can’t run.  The early hours of the morning is when most TOCs do a lot of rolling stock movement.  Not all starting stations have the facilities to leave X amount of trains there overnight, so they get taken back to their local depot and are then moved in time for the early services.

Imagine that you live at Tattenham Corner.  There are three platforms there.  Two for services up down, and the third is not in use, but you can still store a train there.  That’s three for the morning.  All well and good, until you realise that there is an up service every 15-20 minutes.  You can’t even run an hour’s worth of trains because you have run out.  Imagine you have four meetings to attend in one day in various places.  You manage to get to the first two of them, then an accident occurs in front of you on the M25.  There is nothing you can do.  You are stuck wherever you are.  Trains cannot pass through an incident such as a person being hit by a train, much like the police won’t let you pass a serious accident on the M25 for safety reasons.  This graphic explains it using simple diagrams.  All signals in a particular nearby radius are moved to red for safety.  The site needs to be attended to by the police, ambulance service and Network Rail.  They have a very short amount of time to determine if it’s foul play, accident or suicide.  But that’s all still more important than you being late for work.

Staff displacement

Something that I notice a lot of commuters don’t seem to understand is that staff on the railways use…shockingly…the railway to get to where they need to be.  A driver might get to Purley, attach his train to another service.  You don’t need two drivers to move that train, you only need one.  The driver that did the attachment is actually now needed in Chichester.  He’ll get on the next Chichester service as a passenger and upon arriving at Chichester he will start his next service.  Once he’s taken a service from Chichester to London Victoria, he might do a final service from London Victoria to Caterham because he lives in Caterham.

If the staff are using the railways to get around, but the entire railway has been shut down, how do people expect them to run services, when the driver needed to move the service from Chichester is still waiting at a red signal outside Purley?  Do people expect them to not only magic extra trains out of nowhere, but also extra staff?

A Twitter user expected Southern to have an entire company’s worth of extra drivers on standby.  I’m not entirely sure how they expect this to happen, as it takes years worth of training to become a train driver, which many people do not complete.  You cannot expect people to be on call either because they would suffer the same fate as the driver needed in Chichester who is waiting at the red signal outside of Purley.  It is not logistically possible, and even if it was financially possible, it would be pointless.

twitter02This is a perfect example of someone choosing not to understand.  I fear that even if someone sat down with them and explained the difficulty of running such a complicated infrastructure it would fall entirely on deaf ears because they don’t actually care.

twitter03This brings me on to my last point.  It appears that we, as a human race, have become so selfish, so self-absorbed that being 20 minutes late for work is more important than the death of a fellow human being.

I had a very long walk today to get a train, and I was 20 or so minutes late for work (minimised by the fact that I made a huge effort to get to a station where I knew things would eventually start moving – sometimes you have to do that even if it means walking for miles, and I mean miles.), but that doesn’t mean anything in comparison to the fact that someone died.

I actually feel sick to the stomach that some people feel the, likely preventable, death of another human being is a reason to abuse people online and accuse them of lying.  That energy shouldn’t be put into abusing members of Southern’s staff.  That energy should be put into helping other people who feel so very desperate that their life had hit such a hard rock bottom that they felt it was their only way out.  Today, someone received a visit from the Police that they weren’t expecting, in order to tell them that their father/son/brother/uncle/partner/husband wasn’t coming home tonight, or ever again.  The people doing the complaining can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to expect a day to be perfectly normal, or start off normal and then have your entire world shattered and fall to the ground, completely out of your control.  If they did have any idea, they wouldn’t behave the way they do.

Southern Railway are not using someone’s death as ‘an excuse’ to cover up a problem with a service.  It is a genuine reason, which, happening so early on in a day will have very long term ramifications whether commuters like it or not.

That is more important than your pathetic little Twitter tirade.  One day the people on Twitter who do this pathetic abuse might need serious crisis help, and for their family’s sake I hope it’s available to them, like it wasn’t available to all of the people they make their petty complaints about.

84 thoughts on “Why your Southern Rail service was delayed today – 09/09/2013

  1. I’ve been caught up in severe in disruption on the railways about 4 times in the last two weeks, today was the second suicide.

    It’s fairly normal to be aggravated by disruption and most people don’t think beyond that. Most people are not going to think about the turmoil and anguish that must have driven the tormented minds of these people to suicide. They are not going to empathise. I don’t think it’s mysterious or a sign of the times just normal.

    As for the railways, of course unprecedented disruption is a challenge and running a complicated infrastructure like them is not easy. However, they charge a fortune for fares, they turnover large profits and they frequently fail to deliver a reasonable service a tragedy like today’s should not lead to mass disruption and there should be enough staff and rolling stock available to minimise disruption.

    • I too have been disrupted on more than one occasion by a death on the line, I’ve also been disrupted by things that really shouldn’t have happened, such as broken down trains. In the grand scheme of things, they are all just inconveniences. The fact that you get home late is a minor inconvenience compared to how some people’s day as has panned out.

      One of the points I’ve made, that I feel you have missed, is that even if Southern had another company’s worth of rolling stock and staff, they cannot operate without the other, and because an entire section of track from Selhurst to South Croydon is closed, how do you expect them to get the rolling stock and the staff out? It is neither financially nor logistically viable.

      TOCs do make a profit. Funnily enough they’re private companies, they’re actually allowed to do that.

      • They are private companies and there is an argument that they shouldn’t be. I think that a private company that provides a service that the public has to use should be scrutinised more than say, a shop. Southern trains are dirty, toilets often don’t have running water, they are crowded, fares are expensive (£52.30 for a return from Brighton to London) and there are frequent cancellations and delays. I don’t think that companies should be able to make profits while such issues are so common. The priority should be quality service and trains, if they can’t deliver that they should hand the service back to the tax payer.

        I know there are logistical challenges but that is no excuse and using the tragedy yesterday to try to blackmail consumers into censoring there complaints is unfair.

        • Blackmail? Rrrright. Logic clearly is beyond your grasp if you think that’s what the companies are doing. Let’s see how people like you do running a Train Company? You obviously think you can do a better job (as do many commoaners), so why not A actually do it, or B use a car to get to work so you don’t have to make such ridiculous claims. Roads NEVER get affected in the same way as the rails, right, Dipper? YOUR comments are unfair and show a clear lack of knowledge. They also show you really haven’t read this piece, or if you have, you didn’t even come close to understanding it. I’d say I hope people like you never get close to any position of authority, but we already have a government full of out-of-touch people.

          • Ok, so you can use a straw man argument if you like, but I was not saying that the train companies were blackmailing consumers into silence was I?

            And no roads don’t get affected in the same way, roads are also not run for profit by private companies.

            I was implying that the gist of this blog was suggesting that due to the nature of yesterdays tragedy people should refrain from and censor complaint because the railways do a great job, which they don’t. I also don’t blame front line staff for this.

            I also never implied that I could personally do a better job of running the railways, I’m a tradesman not a logistics expert. I do suspect that the railways might be better off run by people with the appropriate experience that were not prioritising profit over service which is how I feel they are currently run.

          • There are two examples within the past week which prove that the roads are subject to massive problems. The crash in Sheppey where many were injured and stuck for hours. Many regular users of the road blame this on a lack of lighting and signage. Also the shutdown of the Dartford crossing for nine hours due to a suspicious device which was later found to be a hoax. Imagine being stuck in your car in midst of 11 miles worth of traffic unable to go anywhere. At least the trains moved yesterday.

          • Maybe I’m just reaction to your (over)reaction, but I think Flipper is right on many counts. A private company that has been given a monopoly over a public transport route has a duty to provide a good service.

            I haven’t been aware of the problem, or the twitter furore, but its not true to say that Southern Rail are completely powerless to do anything. The map shows a clear bottleneck through clapham junction, and if so many services rely on that section of track, it would be prudent of them to have a backup plan. People have a right to complain. Even if it can’t solve things short term, it may prompt Southern to up their game in the long run.

          • I don’t understand where you get Clapham Junction from, but what back up do you expect them to have?

            No new railway has been built in Britain for over a hundred years. The building of new railway is the sole responsibility of the government. Should they just knock down a few hundred homes, and a load of public services (a huge criminal court being one) to make a bypass at Croydon? It’s not an easy logistical solution and even if it was it would take years.

            There’s no easy solution to it, particularly not flippant ‘just do this’ ideas.

        • From Brighton to London is aprox 50 miles – see VTB at the bottom of http://deaves47.zxq.net/ELRs/ELRv.htm for the exact distance.
          That means that you’re paying 50 pence per mile and I would like to see you drive from Brighton station to London Victoria station in just over an hour like the train makes it…

      • I agree with you, it’s very hard to deal with logistical challenges and we should get our anger into perspective in these situations but I also don’t feel that criticism is unwarranted because of a tragedy.

    • Clearly you’ve ignored one of the most salient of facts of the post – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got more staff and stock in reserve because they can’t go anywhere when such an incident happens, and there’s nowhere to keep them!

    • “a tragedy like today’s should not lead to mass disruption and there should be enough staff and rolling stock available to minimise disruption.”
      Did you even read the article???

  2. Well said mate, if I was 20 minutes late due to a DEATH, I would not use it as an excuse to have a rant at Southern or any TOC in fact. Like you say, Southern cant bring more trains out to the South part of the mainline as their main depot, Selhurst, is on the North side of East Croydon, which means units can only go as far as Victoria and Croydon. I can understand the publics frustration, but causing a stir over a death is evil. I hope whoever made rude comments to Southern goes through what the fatalities family and victim have had to endure today. I know if I had a visit from a policeman telling me my mum, dad, auntie, uncle, nan or grandad weren’t coming home, I’d be horrified by the ignorant people ranting at Southern. FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, IT’S NOT SOUTHERNS FAULT PEOPLE. That is all.

    • I’ve made little minor complaints in the past, but I’ve never been nasty about something that is so deeply affecting to so many people. Getting somewhere late isn’t the be all and end all. And if it is, I truly belive some people may need to evaluate their lives.

  3. Its sad you’ve had to put this online, but its true people are so wrapped up in their own lives, that no one else matters…

    Thank You for posting.

  4. Hi, I do appreciate this as i’ve worked for the railway and experienced what a suicide at a station can do to the service and the staff. I would like to make one point though, not everyone who is being selfish is doing so for a bad reason. There is a lot of pressure for people who commute to London to perform. If they are late, even if it is not their fault, their job can be at risk. If these people have family to support or bills to pay they may lash out. It is my hope that at least some of them regret it.

    • I commute to London every single week day, I know the pressure. I work for a huge global company where things like this matter, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty where the situation is unavoidable and there is nothing you can do to fix it all, the vast majority of companies are okay with it.

      Yesterday I walked miles to get a train that I knew would eventually run. That’s what makes a difference at my job, they know that I will make a huge effort to get there and fulfil my duty because I see it as the least that I can do. I know far too many people who don’t care enough to do that. And before anyone jumps on me about how not everyone can walk that far – I shouldn’t be walking that far due to the irreperable damage it does to my body. If a company is giving people grief for being late due to the fact that someone died, that company seriously needs to review not only its policies but also the people it has working in management and HR to have such an attitude. I’ve worked for a company like them, and if people knew, they wouldn’t ever apply to work for them in the future.

      People are largely responsible for their own destiny. Sometimes things, like yesterday’s events, get in the way, but we still have some control, people just have to want to make the effort. If it had come to it, I would have walked north of Selhurst to get a train, and by that point I would have been half way to work anyway.

    • Quite right, no-one has said it was suicide. I would suggest not foul play, nor theft, though could have been an accident. The handing back by the police was too quick for foul play – I’ve spent my entire life in the midst of the Police and have some idea how investigations work in fast moving or other environments. If it can be determined quickly it was a suicide it’s pretty simple for the police to get everything handed back quickly.

  5. Really great, well written and thoughtful article you’ve put together here. I work for the railway (not Southern) and have a lot of direct contact with passengers via social media.

    It’s difficult to convey your frustration with passengers sometimes when they can’t see how stupid their problems seem compared to the bigger picture. From a personal point of view, you want to tell these people that they’re morons (this is putting it kindly), and to think about what they’re actually saying. But from a company point of view and knowing how quickly things can escalate via social media, we have to take the abuse or ask how we can help.

    Another point to consider is the trauma caused to the driver seeing these people often leap out in front of them and knowing that they’re powerless to stop. Yet again, however, people are more concerned that they’re late for work.

    TOCs aren’t perfect and we don’t profess to be. Common things go wrong like signalling and it must be frustrating being a commuter sometimes being held up by these. But when it is something like what happened yesterday, you would think people would put their personal problems aside and show some support to TOCs, rather than venom and abuse.

    Regards.

    • Well said :)

      I realised after I published it that I should have added a part I was considering about the welfare of the driver and other train crew. Sadly, even that would not bring around the people who complain so bitterly. In their opinion the driver witnessing a death which they (unintentionally) caused and were powerless to stop means nothing. I mean, the driver will likely be traumatised for some time, if not for the rest of their lives. They risk being off work for some time and depending how seriously affect they are, they may not be able to return to work. So along with some people claiming they could lose their job for being a bit late and struggle to support a family, this driver may end up losing his job and being unable to support his family, but that’s fine because people can still shout and abuse the online staff.

      Keep on doing your good work for the rail :)

      • Not just the driver / train crew, but all those on the ground that have to dash there and clear up – railway staff / police / ambulance / coroners etc…
        One person’s terrible decision to end their life can and will probably affect at least a dozen more !
        Unfortunately there are on average 3 fatalities on Britains’s railways every day ! :-( Be they intentional or accidental, that is going to add to the chaos of trying to keep the system / country moving…

  6. You make some good points, and of course chaos is inevitable when this kind of thing happens. My main gripe however, is that when it does happen there seems to be a complete lack of information that never makes it’s way to the customer. If people are getting to the station, and all that’s there to inform them is a sign that says some disruption, but then the signs on the platform say that the train is coming on time then people are going to trust what that says. The signs yesterday kept updating with small delays, from the scheduled time and then three or four minutes as the time passed.

    I think people have a reasonable expectation that Southern should be learning from events like this and be better set up for disruptions in the future so people can see realistic estimates of when trains are going to arrive, rather than simply saying that ‘theres nothing we can do’.

    • But, that’s the thing…the amount of information available on Twitter and online in general was phenomenal. Constantly, all day they were answering people’s questions and providing as much information as they could. And then there are times when, at a station for example, they simply don’t know, so cannot provide an answer. I understand this, so it’s no stretch for other people to understand.

      In this information age, we still need to realise that information isn’t always available in the blink of an eye, especially in such a massive operation.

      • Agreed, there was a lot Of information on Twitter, but you only check twitter once it became apparent that something was wrong. The signs at the station were showing information that was in hindsight, clearly wrong so to the commuters at the station it’s not a case of missing information but misleading information. I realise that this is probably an issue with the system used to display that information but I feel that while there is clear room for improvement we should be allowed to raise issue with this. I completely agree that it isn’t fair to abuse staff over twitter or in person.

  7. I stumbled across this on Twitter. I’m a regular commuter and tweet as Reluctant Commuter (@RCommuter). THANK YOU for posting this.

    I get as frustrated as the next passenger, but as a 13 year old our family had that knock on the door at 6am one morning to say that my Grandfather had ended his life on the railway. As a 41 year old that and the aftermath still haunts me today.

    I overheard one commuter who was a ‘stranded’ in Costa Coffee at East Croydon suggest to his colleague that would-be suicidals ought to ‘do it’ around lunchtime so commuters wouldn’t be inconvenienced so much.

    I hope your post might just mean that people take a few seconds out of their busy day to think out the spouse, partner, family, friends of the deceased and those involved with dealing with incident itself.

    • Many thanks for your comment :)

      I, too, know what it’s like to hear a family member has been hurt on the railway. In my case, they didn’t die, but they are disfigured for life and they cannot change that. It’s not just something they have to live with, but the entire family are affected.

      Hopefully some people might read this and take a moment to think, but maybe that’s asking too much.

      • I was the train driver on that train yesterday morning,and believe me I had no intention of having such a serious incident,it’s a stressful job at most times but on this particular morning it was horrendous,having read some comments from people I’m flabbergasted at lack of compassion,to both me my colleagues,and most of all the individual and his family,I just hope nobody has to go through what I,and they are going through.

  8. hmmm, I find this article patronising. I have just refused to renew my season ticket because the price was ridiculous and just keeps going up. The service was making me late for meetings every week, missed connections and a whole swaythe of differing reasons for the poor service. I heard the phrase “Southern is sorry” more than any other, week in, week out. Being upset by this does not make me ‘uneducated’ or heartless. In fact, I think it is completely wrong to try to take the tragic circumstances of suicide and use it as an excuse to attack people who are plainly unhappy with the service they are receiving. If I am charged thousands of pounds for a service I am entitled to my opinion. Believe it or not I can manage to understand the logistical challenges that running a train service may bring, I am no expert but I can see it is an epic undertaking. I have experienced rude staff, drivers pulling away as passengers run from one platform to another to make the connection, misinformation and lack of support in confronting other passengers who are threatening or rude. This has nothing to do with logistics. I believe in the principle of affordable, reliable transport for all. It used to feel like this was being strived for. Now it feels like passengers and services are being squeezed financially so profit can be milked out. It does not make sense to privatise a service that is not profitable. You can do it with the Post Office because it is possible to meet the aims of the service and make profit. Trains cannot be profitable and offer an affordable service to the poor, it’s too big and just doesn’t add up. Blaming upset passengers for these bad management decisions leads me to believe the Southern isn’t even sorry anymore……..

    • But this isn’t about your service being late every week. This is about people being plain nasty on one day due to a tragedy. That’s uncalled for. If your service is regularly late, sure, complain about it. I’ve complained about finding vomit in a carriage on a very early service, and felt a little hard done by when I am late for work, but shit happens, I move on.

      This is about the vile, selfish and disgusting things people were laying on to the Southern staff yesterday, which was completely uncalled for.

      • Nail on the head,I cannot vouch for previous incidents or problems with running a complex rail system,but having been a train driver for 23 years all I can say is yesterday was the lowest point in my career,and as an individual a can vouch for my southern colleagues in saying we are professional in every way,and customer focused aswell,people have got to realise that the perfect railway doesn,t exist,nor does the perfect world

    • Quote “drivers pulling away as passengers run from one platform to another to make the connection”

      Yeah, they do it deliberately. tsk tsk
      Are you so anal that you think that it’s done on purpose?? The days of held “connections” are gone, the days of £200 per delay minute fines are here and that’s possibly why your season ticket has gone up, as maybe some people “held” the connection.
      It maybe just a minute to you, but this snowballs, delays other services and before you know it the attributed minutes rack up to 10 minutes plus. Oh look a £2000 fine……. or your season ticket!! Just because a train was held.
      And whatever the delay, whatever precious meeting you were late for is no excuse for you or others to abuse staff, period.

  9. This is a very good article explaining what went on. However, the disruption lasting all day is quite rightly due criticism.
    Whilst it’s a tragedy when a life is lost, there are procedures that kick in to clear the incident as expediently as possible. This didn’t occur fully for a while, though all lines approaching East Croydon opened within 2 hours. Yes, the morning peak was going to be decimated. That’s without any doubt.
    Now you can argue how this criticism manifests itself. Angry commuters venting fury on Twitter is something I choose to avoid. Looking at the tweets concerned as a railway worker is akin to a five year old child constantly showing their painted pictures to the adult who says they are awful, and being surprised when you cry.
    There also processes in reconstructing the service after a line closure for this and indeed any other problem. Indeed, some lines remained open largely throughout the incident.
    To be still disrupted at 21:00 shows clearly that something failed. Staff displacement is only true as long as they are out of position. But around 14:00, an entirely new set of staff is on duty and are bound by where they sign on for duty.
    Rolling Stock displacement is only true until you’ve found it all. There are also processes for this. If these haven’t happened then rightly that’s another area for criticism.
    I hold a lot of knowledge of this particular geographic area and am here to tell you that this is not usual. Or defensible via the usual means. A tragic loss of life should never be used as a mask when something had clearly failed to engage as it should have in this case.

    • The “new staff” argument doesn’t work… staff will often book at locations other than where they operate their first train. If they have to travel by train, they will arrive late. If they book on where their first service is, that train could be out of place.

  10. Thank you for this. I work for Southern and so this means a lot to me and the Twitter Team, who put up with some truly vile and offensive tweets on a day like yesterday.

    Your post has influenced some ideas we’ve been discussing for a while about providing more information about *why* things go wrong and what we and Network Rail have to do to resolve them. Of course we can’t help tragedies like yesterday (or snow, etc) but maybe we can help people understand a bit more.

    Thank you very much.

    • Absolutely Emma. Once the industry as a whole works as one to unify the message about such disruptive events the general public on the route on which we work, the outward messages can rely on a default position of what is happening behind the scenes. This can be in as generic or as specific terms as we like, however it needs to give insight beyond the delay reasons given in the templated industry standards we’re bound to currently. Then and only then can a fair judgment be passed by members of the public.

  11. As a member of railway staff whose train was involved in a fatality, it disgusts me that people give any TOC this kind of abuse.

  12. RailwayFansUK rarely comments on delays and problems on the railway infrastructure but on this occasion I feel that it is prevalent that a comment is made.
    I totally agree with the author, sometimes it’s disgusting having to listen to people bemoan and criticise the issues the railways sometimes endures, I admit it’s not always smooth sailing, but on issues like fatalities, commuters and fellow comment makers including tweeters should take a moment to stop and reflect on the fact that somebody’s life has been taken today whether by self harm or accident, please have a little consideration.

  13. Fair play to you, nice to see some actual reality.
    Yes fatalities cause massive chaos and are very distressing to all those involved.
    The fact that people are late (while a serious nuisance to them) is totally unavoidable.
    The service has to stop legally it can’t carry on.
    Show some compassion and understanding, the railway always does all it can to get moving again.

  14. Given the anger that people have towards private companies why has this not been a political issue? You’d think given the majority of rail commuters are in the abc1 income bracket. You’d think that politicians would have to listen to their electorate. But at the last election the main political parties all agreed on the current privatisation model. As they did at the election before.

    I find this funny, because as a frontline member of staff, I get it in the neck every day over ticket prices, and yet when you guys buy petrol, are you discussing the hegemony of OPEC with the man behind the counter?

    The public are not the only ones guilty, I had a chap who claimed to work for the BBC tell me that I was a thief last year as I sold him a full price ticket, but the last BBC Panorama documentary on the railways heartily endorsed Chiltern Railways privatisation model, so not exactly searing insightful journalism eh?

    Perhaps the railways are a symbol of this nations problems, a public who have willingly disengaged from the political process and politicians who are more interested in the wishes of corporations than their own citizens?

  15. I have to travel on this dreafull line everyday. Yesterday my connection from Haywards Heath was late. It is late without fail every single day – yesterday Southern blamed in on the incident 14 hours before which to me is despicable cynicism on Southern’s part. They think we are fools. I understand that suicides cause problems for hours afterwards and it is not the railway’s fault but don’t treat us like idiots.

  16. Welll written.
    I would just like to add, why do TOCs pander to Twiiter abuse? They seem to suck it up and think it acceptable. I’ve seen TOC representatives answer and suck up to F words and worse, why?
    I personally would not stand for any such abuse and block them from making any further comments.
    Notices are up everywhere in Dr’s and Hospitals etc (another area where people also think abusing staff is ok) That if you abuse staff, you will be removed, refused treatment, prosecuted etc etc, so why do railway staff have to accept it??
    All Twitter abusers in these cases should be reported, and certainly not entertained and pandered to by the TOCs.

  17. I recently had a Passenger suffer a Heart Attack on my Train!
    Whilst staff and other passengers helped him as much as they could why we awaited an Ambulance, other passengers thought it totally acceptable to demand we drag him off the Train so their journey could continue and got very aggressive towards the Staff when their request was denied!!!
    Totally Selfish Britain!!!!

    Also whilst people slate Southern and other TOC’s for their profits and Ticket prices, remember they only receive roughly 3% of that Ticket Price!!!
    The majority goes to Network Rail which is Taxpayer Owned, who’s rundown infrastructure is the cause for a large number of the delays!!!
    So harass your MP not the TOC!

    • That’s a sad situation to hear about, that people have so little compassion for other human beings who are, quite literally, dying before their eyes that they effectively want that person out of their sight so that they can carry on their all important journey.

      We all like to get home at the end of the day, but if it takes me 3 hours longer than normal because someone died, someone was injured or someone became deathly ill on or near my service, I just have to suck it up. I’ll still get home alive in the end.

  18. Well put piece. Sadly as some comments here are proving, the message is still not reaching some people. I applaud you for trying though as someone who has worked on trains and still myself do not claim to fully understand the complexities of running such a system as some of the worst complainers do, even when faced down with reason and logic. Again, thank you on behalf of all those doing their job on the railways for posting this. :)

  19. I applaud you very highly for the post you have written as I work for southern and only a minority of passenger really understand the strain us staff go through on a day to day basis, yes sometimes the company is at fault and stupidity does poke up from time to time but when suicides, break downs and weather affecting the lines days happen it is a nightmare !

    Since the culling of staff on stations has happened we have had to work a job where it needs two people to function ! And as we all know that’s not how the world really works and having passengers threatening us with our lives and jobs and telling us how they will hunt us down and make our lives hell for something which is out of our hands doesn’t really help the matter in hand and doesn’t solve anything! I’m glad, I personally have a nice amount of passengers who actually listen to me and understand the situation involved In running a large business like the railway but the negative selfish passengers who don’t understand really need to sit down and read your post and understand it and if they don’t understand it just keep reading till it clicks ! Once again I applaud you for this post and how this is spreading around so fast !

  20. Commuting by rail is horrendously expensive and you can never be sure what time you’ll arrive. I’d say that at least three times a week I can be anything up to ten minutes late arriving at Victoria – often without any form of apology or explanation. I was half an hour late one day last week. That means it took about an hour and twenty minutes to get to London from Brighton!

    If you buy a point-to-point annual season from Brighton to London on FCC, it’ll cost a whopping £3,532.00 – rising to £4,928.00 if you want to travel with any operator and ride around zones 1-6 all day – and get discounted travel elsewhere away from the route to work.

    What a rip off, even if I can travel an unlimited number of times between all stations on the route at any time I like. I think I’ll take the car from now on. Let’s see: I get 30 mpg average, it’s a 110-mile round trip. That’s 3.67 gallons a day @ £6.15 per gallon (forgive the imperial measurements). That’s £22.57 per day, five days a week for 46 weeks a year, plus congestion charge @ £50 per week. Grand total? £74911.10 – before I even think about parking and the extra 25,300 miles it would put on the car every year, with all the new tyres, extra servicing etc that would entail, and the odd crushed bumper or scrape I might pick up in the heavy traffic.

    I’ve also heard that there are sometimes accidents on the motorway and lane closures which cause delays; and that it takes longer anyway by road.

    Conclusion: commuting by car is horrendously expensive and you can never be sure what time you’ll arrive. But even the most severely delayed trains are almost always quicker than a journey by road undertaken in ideal conditions; and you can use the loo on the train if it works. I think I’ll cycle.

    • Interesting point about fares.

      I think the problem is that with a season ticket you pay a large number in one go, whereas with petrol you pay a small number many times over. Even when the car is more expensive, it seems like the rail is costing more.

  21. When an incident such as a person hit by a train occurs the area becomes a crime scene until British Transport Police say otherwise. To all the people complaining I would say that you should count yourselves lucky that you aren’t the one getting a knock on the door to say that a member of your family has been killed by a train.

  22. a thing that commuters don’t realise is that train crew have to have breaks at certain locations and within a certain time according to what time their duty starts
    this unfortunately then has further impact on service recovery and hence the longer delays,perhaps commuters would like to have their lunch breaks disrupted and finish much later than normal.
    it is also a fact that staff must have 12 hours rest between duties for safety and
    must be free of all alcohol ,so when your having your beer or wine at lunchtime
    think about the traincrew who could be taking you on your journey

  23. Please stop trying to convince the non believers to travel by train. Let them go by car or coach (and suffer all the delays / cost etc) as it means more room on the train for the rest of us !

  24. for someone who does not work for southern you seem to have a very detailed knowledge of train movements displacements and crew diagrams
    it would be easier to say that people who feel the need to abuse anonymously are not really worth worrying about

    • I think the art of learning from one’s surroundings is dying out. People are far too interested in fiddling with their phone or watching something on their iPad that they miss so much. They miss the sights out of the windows, they don’t pay attention to what the staff are announcing or talking about. Entirely through their own choice many people are effectively ignoring the world around them and therefore learning so much less than previous generations did.

      Everything in that post I learned from deduction, backed up by research. It’s a pretty simple realisation that the train which picked me up this morning must have come from somewhere, and must go somewhere else because I never get on the same train twice in a day. That train runs more than one service, and therefore the staff must run more than one service in the places that they are needed.

      Commuters need to look up from their phones and turn their music off more. They would see so many lovely things.

      • > they don’t pay attention to what the staff are announcing or talking about

        And then complain that the staff gave them no information. Always found that amusing, if sad.

  25. Bravo! Excellent post!!
    Shame some are still missing the point here, but thank you for restoring my faith in the travelling public.

  26. Well written !! Having spent 32 years on the footplate I endorse your précis wholeheartedly. Having also suffered two suicides personally while driving I can tell everyone it is the police & authorities that stop the job until its established no crime (such as murder) has been committed.
    No one staff included want trains to be late. And railway staff do their utmost to straighten the job out & get things running normally when incidents occur.

  27. The emotional/psychological aspect: picking up the remains, seeing the eyes stare into you as you cannot stop the train and are helpless to prevent this. What do you think the emotional cost, platforms staff see the remains, drivers and conductors see it, BTP see it and scrape it up. If you had a workplace where people started routinely using your premises to kill themselves you might just understand.

  28. Excellent post, sums it up perfectly. People expect TOCs to do magic, and when everything doesn’t run perfectly, it’s all down to their ‘profit greed’ and that they’re ‘amateurs’. I’d like to see them run a train company to their own standards, or even run a car, bus, etc to the same punctuality levels that the railway usually achieves, especially going into London. And then to be so abusive and ignorant to TOC twitter staff, especially when someone has died, is abhorrent.

    Another noteworthy issue also is the state of the driver of that train. Not only should the people who sent those tweets in the position of the deceased’s family, but the train driver too. How would they like it to have to run a train at a high speed into a human being and kill them, without being able to stop the train, or slow it down enough. Without being able to do anything but sit there and watch. It’s not only terrifying for the driver, but fills them with guilt too. It can take weeks, months to recover. Some drivers never do recover, and can never drive again.

    Aside from adding the above point, though, I agree fully with your post. Thanks for speaking out and making a seriously important point.

  29. I completely understand everyone’s views.

    However has anyone thought of what the staff have to deal with in the above situation?
    I’m guessing not.

    What the staff not only have to deal with is clearing up the mess a death leaves on the railway. A train hitting a person at 30mph or 125 mph is always going to end the same way. Its god knows how much ton of train and 9 times out of 10 not going to be a pretty site.
    Making sure passenger do not see what they have to see. Is there number one priority.

    Ask yourself a question do you want to go past a site the incident has happened that may look like a ton of berries processed in a blender?

    I am guessing not.

    They also have to keep calm under the situation and help passengers that need assistance and try and get passengers on alternative services where possible.
    If they can’t get them on alternative services then then have to try and find bus companies that are not booked for school runs etc to put in for passenger. Not always easy. Have you ever thought of how calm some staff are when passengers are screaming at them that maybe after what they have just seen they just want give minutes to themselves but they carry on making sure everything returns to normal until they manage to get a break.
    Yeah sometimes they make excuses up but more than likely because they haven’t been given the information. Do you think they enjoy repeating themselves wouldn’t it make their life easier if they could just say there is your next train and get you on you way.

    I am a regular commuter and I deal with late trains cancelled trains being late for work etc. but put yourself in there shoes for one day.

  30. You only have to read the dribble that the regular morongs post on the fgw and swt twitter feeds, don’t get me wrong people do have some genuine reasons for complains, but then we have the total waste of spaces who set up what can only be described as troll accounts to harrass these company’s on a daily basis as if they are more important than everyone else … if you want to see the diary of the mentally ill check out these worthless fools

    https://twitter.com/fgwkmc

    https://twitter.com/My6Percent

    https://twitter.com/commuting_tales

    https://twitter.com/mingymoo

    https://twitter.com/worstlatewstrn

    https://twitter.com/recklessrik

    How can ones life be so pathetic?? if tesco pissed you off would you not shop at asda insted?

    we have cars, we have busses, we have national express, push bikes, taxis, houses within walking distance of you work place

    i do not work on the railways and if people acted like this about anything else in life the white jacket would come out and they would be sectioned!

    GROW UP

  31. Pingback: A death on the railway: the fallout | Imagine my surprise…

  32. Sad to read the intolerant comments on here. Railway employees do all they can in the circumstances. And (privately owned, privately financed) train stock cannot be magicked out of nowhere.

    The issue of price and ownership of the railway service is political. I wonder if the trolls who complain about price and ownership issues actually do anything about that. Furthermore, suicide rates are now increasing partly due to family breakdown, the longest economic downturn in memory and policies and a climate where demonising the vulnerable is deemed acceptable.

    As regards suicide on the railway – Samaritans are involved in working with Network Rail to reduce/alleviate the impact http://www.samaritans.org/your-community/reducing-railway-deaths/working-prevent-railway-suicide-details

  33. I was actually on a Southern train last month standing next to the conductor as he gave his ‘Southern are sorry for the delay to your journey’ announcement.

    Must have been having a bad day because as soon as he hung up the phone, he turned to me and said, ‘Actually, Southern don’t give a crap if you’re late or not – they don’t care about their staff either’. I’m sure they want to get services running ASAP, but it’s to reduce the complaints from commuters – and hence refunds, not because they care about you.

  34. Pingback: Why you suffered rail disruption during the UK Storm | Imagine my surprise…

  35. I think your right to a degree however maybe people would feel less angry and more sympathetic if being late for work didn’t mean the were all scared of getting fired by their evil corporate soul destroying companies who are allowed to treat people like trash by an evil corporate loving government who in turn privatised the rail ways into an evil corporate monopoly.

  36. It’s worth noting that the British Transport Police treat every fatality on railway lines as a potential crime scene, until proven otherwise, which means nothing can be moved for ages as that could disturb any evidence of foul play. Whether that’s a reasonable approach is another debate – my point is that Traffic Police don’t seem to take half as long gathering evidence when there’s a death on the roads, and generally seem keener on getting major routes re-opened than their railway colleagues. Another oddity is that a Coroner must officially declare the person dead, so one has to be called out, even when bits of the recently departed are liberally smeared all over the front of the train and distributed over half a mile of track or more, and they very clearly never stood any chance of still being alive.

    Southern operate a very intensive service over a very complex network. The number of trains and the number of passengers they carry have increased enormously since nationalised British Railways days, but the routes they run on are much the same. In other words they are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, and the major constraints aren’t theirs to change. The track and the signals are owned by Network Rail, not Southern, and Network Rail are funded by the taxpayer via the Department for Transport. So next time something goes wrong on the Southern network and everyone asks “Why are these services so quick to fall into chaos and so difficult to get back to normal after an incident?” remember that they run on a railway that’s full so it has no margin – no room for recovery – and that’s because the Department for Transport want the moon on a stick but don’t want to spend any money. There are minor changes happening now (extra platform at Gatwick, for example), but they are long overdue and will probably only stop things from getting worse rather than actually making them any better. So ask the Department for Transport why the railway lines you pay for as a taxpayer aren’t fit for purpose and they’d rather blame Southern when things go wrong than do anything to resolve the underlying issues they’re responsible for on your behalf.

    • Thank you for your comment, it’s good to see this topic is still alive and I hope changing some people’s minds.

      I have known the Police to close roads for a day, sometimes more for an RTC. I believe it can be easier to establish the circumstances on a road based on vehicle position, physical evidence and witnesses at the scene. They also have 3D surveying equipment now to aid a faster clear up.

  37. You have no idea how much I appreciate your post. Thank you.

    As a member of rail staff who has been directly involved with a fatality it’s great to hear from a member of the public who understands.

    I was ranted at when the incident I was involved in occurred. Whilst I can appreciate that people have places to be and they get frustrated when things don’t go to plan, they should spare a thought for everyone involved. Try thinking what it must be like to have witnesses something as horrific as that and then be shouted and sworn at as a result. How would you feel if you were spoken to like that whilst simply doing your job? Yes, we choose to do the job, but whilst being late can possibly set you up in a bad mood for the rest of the day, the effects on us last much, much longer.

    • Thank you for your comment. I hope you’ve been able to find some peace since your terrible experience.

      So people might choose these jobs, but they don’t choose to watch people die or be caught in the middle so they should never be abused because of it.

      I was a few metres away when the helicopter crashed in Vauxhall, totally helpless and useless but utterly shell shocked. Yet, people shouted about not being able to get a bus because the station was closed.

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