Commuter group calls on transport ministry to act on Southern

The Association of British Commuters' poster, featuring overcrowded platforms at East Croydon Station, circulated today

The ABC poster, featuring East Croydon Station, as circulated today

An organisation representing rail commuters has begun circulating a poster showing a picture of the overcrowded platforms at East Croydon Station as part of an appeal to DafT, the Department for Transport, to intervene to resolve the dispute between Southern Railways and the unions.

The Association of British Commuters warns that the commuter rail network in the south-east and south London could be on the brink of a fatal incident.

They report outbreaks of violence among passengers eager to get on to their train, what they describe as “mass panic” as commuters scurry due to a late platform change, missed station stops by trains, illness affecting elderly and pregnant passengers on packed trains, and even one case where a child was left abandoned on a station platform because of an overcrowded train.

Today marks the second of four days of strike action by the RMT railway union over Southern’s moves towards removing trained guards on their trains.

ABC issued its poster today, saying that it has been inundated with reports of health and safety risks related to overcrowding on the Southern Rail network, “problems that we have witnessed for many months, and have reached their peak during the strike action”.

The Association says that they have instructed lawyers to write to the transport department “seeking clarity on whether they have conducted any risk analysis in advance of the RMT strikes, and at what point the DfT will consider these risks to be seen to be sufficiently serious to warrant termination of the franchise”.

They say that they have also asked what instructions the department has given to Southern’s operators, GTR – Govia Thameslink Railways – to minimise the effect on passengers.

ABC have reported to DafT various incidents of violence at Brighton station, dangerous overcrowding and panic in crowds, mass rushes along overcrowded platforms to board trains in the case of last-minute announcements and illness and incapacity brought on in the vulnerable, pregnant, elderly and disabled.  “Reports have also emerged of at least two incidents of trains going through planned station stops without stopping during the course of last week’s RMT strike,” ABC say.

The missed stops, ABC say, are worrying indicators of potential rail disasters. “ABC are concerned that these could be ‘Signals Passed At Danger’, where a train passes a red signal and so on to a part of the track shared by another train. SPADS are almost always a factor in fatal rail accidents. We have therefore asked the DfT to disclose reporting data, investigation outcomes and recommendations, together with risk assessments relating to these SPADs.”

In a statement issued tonight, ABC said, “The Select Committee for Transport confirmed last week what ABC has been arguing for months – that the Department for Transport has failed to monitor and enforce the GTR franchise agreement, and are evading their responsibility to provide proper transparency.

“In the meantime, with no confidence in GTR’s management of the network, or the DfT’s oversight, we feel that the extra overcrowding during the strikes represents an unacceptable health and safety risk to the public and fear that it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we will see a tragedy on the network.”

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