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Passengers reveal 'ruined lives' amid Southern rail dispute disruption

The dramatic impact of months of disruption to Southern Railway services has been revealed by passengers now facing "intolerable" journeys.

A survey of 1,000 passengers showed that delays, cancellations and overcrowding is causing health problems, forcing people to move house and even lose their jobs.

One man said: "Quite simply, it has ruined my life."

The Association of British Commuters said its survey highlighted the extent of suffering as a result of the "utter breakdown" of services.

A spokesman said: "An accurate understanding of the situation is far more nuanced than we are currently seeing portrayed by the company and politicians - which has become a further aggravation for commuters, many of whom were forced to leave their jobs or relocate their homes long before the strike action became an issue.

"Thousands of people are now at breaking point, and the Association of British Commuters continues to advocate on their behalf - calling for immediate and transparent Government intervention into this failed company as well as a fully independent public inquiry into the circumstances behind the collapse of Southern Rail."

A passenger who commutes daily from Brighton to London said: "Quite simply, it has ruined my life. The stress and exhaustion from the constant disruption and uncertainty has had a dramatically negative effect on my work, my health and my relationships.

"From tomorrow I will be separated from my family during the working week and paying a rent I cannot afford simply in order to stay in London to do my job."

A commuter from Wivelsfield to London said: "The Southern Rail crisis has affected me profoundly - I have lost faith in Government, civil service and mainstream media. I have had to abandon my belief in rail travel as an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible transport option, I have lost out financially as I have had to cut my work hours to reduce commuting.

"I am absolutely stunned by the levels of self-interest, profiteering, disregard for public safety and sheer immorality that the whole issue has revealed. I have no faith that DfT (Department for Transport) will apologise and improve things and believe that our essential rail system will collapse totally.

"Abandoned attempts to get to work, disrupted work days, cancelled meeting up with friends, changed dentist, unable to visit family for caring purposes, cancelled sports club memberships as unable to get home in time, get up at 0445 every day to check live departures so short of sleep, stressed by the thought of even trying to catch a train."

Another commuter from Brighton to London said: "Frequently the trains I board are overcrowded, messy and full of faults. I've had passengers shout and swear at me for daring to ask them to move down the carriage.

"I've helped fainters disembark because there's been no conductor, and even if there was they'd have little chance of battling through the crowds. I've come home crying. I've come home angry.

"This didn't used to be the case - my partner recently remarked on how upbeat and calm I was during a period of annual leave.

"Rest assured this wasn't because I was taking time away from the job I enjoy. It was because I was spending upwards of two hours a day honing my running, elbowing and gymnastics skills aboard the four-carriage 16:15 to Brighton.

"I honestly believe I wouldn't be on a high dose of antidepressants if it weren't for my commute. I'm writing this comment from the East of England, after attending a job interview. If I get it I will cry tears of sheer relief."

A daily commuter from Horley to London said: "I have lost two jobs and about to be put on disciplinary for time keeping in my new job.

"Despite not having sympathy with the unions, this situation is being exacerbated by the intransigence and sheer ineptitude of some extremely poor management at Govia."

A daily commuter from Merstham to Clapham said: "Getting to work on time is proving near impossible most days of the week. Getting home is proving a nightmare most days of the week. If I could find a job with no commute, I'd swap in an instant."

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union are on the second day of a three day strike in their long-running dispute over the role of conductors.

Some Southern services were cancelled or replaced by buses. An ongoing ban on overtime by drivers in Aslef added to the disruption.

Southern is already warning there will be no services during a week-long strike by drivers from January 9.

Alex Foulds, Southern's deputy chief operating officer, said: "While we will do everything we can to get passengers where they want to go, we have to warn people that journeys may be disrupted and take longer than normal.

"We are sorry that yet again passengers will have their plans disrupted by what is pointless industrial action.

"Our door remains open for meaningful talks and we urge the RMT to see sense and join us in delivering a better railway for everyone in 2017."

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