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Commuters vent anger at 'Southern Fail' as 341 trains are cut

Published 11/07/2016

Commuters angered by delays to their train journeys have staged a demonstration at Victoria Station.

More than 100 disgruntled rail users took to the concourse of the central London train station to protest after months of chaos caused by frequent cancellations by Southern Railway.

Brandishing placards reading "We Pay You Delay" and "Ban The Fat Controller", the protesters chanted "Southern Fail" through a megaphone.

Many passing commuters making their way home on Southern services signalled their approval to the demonstrators.

Passengers have complained about not getting home from work in time to see their children, while others have claimed that unreliable services have cost them their jobs.

Emily Cumming, 44, from South Norwood, said the service provided by Southern was "absolute carnage".

Speaking at the demonstration, she said: "I never get home on time. I'm absolutely fed up."

She added that, despite having a relatively short commute, the delays and cancellations mean she is late for work every day and that it ruins her social life.

Southern introduced a reduced timetable on Monday to make services more "resilient".

But despite the move, which has seen it cut 341 trains a day for a month, passengers on the network faced another day of delays.

The company previously apologised to passengers for weeks of disruption and pressed ahead with the timetable changes despite warnings that they could have a "devastating" impact.

Southern, owned by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), blames high levels of staff sickness as well as industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in a dispute over the role of conductors.

Southern's passenger services director, Alex Foulds, said when the changes were announced last week that the cuts would mean "a better, more consistent service".

Alex Prosser-Snelling, one of the organisers of the protest, said: "We aren't people who protest normally, but everyone's fed up with the service.

"Southern mismanagement is needlessly wrecking passengers' evenings, interfering with childcare, and stressing out the workforce. Southern needs to get a grip - and if they can't or won't, the Government shouldn't let them run a railway."

A train driver joined the demonstration at one point and apologised to commuters for the delays.

The driver, who did not wish to be named, was cheered by commuters for taking a stand and they broke into a rendition of For He's A Jolly Good Fellow.

Peter Simpson, who commutes from Worthing, West Sussex, also took part in the rush-hour protest and described the quality of the service as "immoral".

He said: "We are being ripped off on a daily basis. People are losing their jobs, people are missing out on their home life."

Ashley Lowry, from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, said it was "impossible to organise any events because you're always late".

She added: "I don't see how they can continue to ignore this kind of protest.

"I have learnt to accept that I can't get a seat any more but I can't accept not getting a train."

Many protesters took to the megaphone to recall their experiences on board Southern trains, which included witnessing passengers having panic attacks because of the crowded conditions.

Rob Savva, from Haywards Heath, said he saw a disabled passenger being taken on and off a train four times on a Friday night because of changes to the services.

He said that the staff were "trying their best" and that those higher up the ladder in Southern were responsible for the chaos.

Oliver Lewis, from the Bring Back British Rail campaign group, described the current rail situation as "absolute shambles" and called on Theresa May to improve the service.

He said: "I really hope that Theresa May sees through the mess that she has inherited."

Mr Lewis said Mrs May should re-establish British Rail and replace the Transport Secretary and rail minister when she becomes Prime Minister.

Consumer association Which? has launched a campaign to make it easier for delayed passengers to get a refund.

Alex Neill, Which? director of policy and campaigns, said: "Given the extreme disruption passengers are facing for the foreseeable future, Southern must offer improved compensation, particularly for season ticket holders and commuters forced to use crowded short form trains at peak times.

"Where possible, affected passengers should receive automatic compensation so that they don't have to repeatedly request refunds for the poor service they are experiencing."

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