I write to express exasperation at the shallow and short sighted coverage the media gives the Southern Rail/ RMT/ ASLEF dispute.
The issues go well beyond whether the doors of a train should be opened by the driver or a guard and the inconvenience of strike action. Decisions made now will determine the level of safety and access for passengers for years to come. To claim that safety levels will not be compromised and somehow, a driver will be able to cover all potential scenarios and aspects of safety by using improved technology is just plain disingenuous. Furthermore, how is a driver going to assist a person with mobility problems? Especially so now with the dwindling and disappearance of staff at so many stations. Only yesterday, whilst returning from East Croydon, on a guardless train, I met a gentleman on a mobility scooter who had gained access to the “guards carriage” via platform staff putting the ramp up to the doorway for him. He confirmed to me that he had to book his assistance the day before but when doing so was advised, his local station would be unstaffed and so therefore, he would have to hire a special taxi to take him to Three Bridges and from where it would also need to collect him to return him home. When the train drew into Three Bridges it was clear that the two platform staff had not been advised to expect him (a not unusual occurrence apparently) and were about to dispatch the train until other passengers intervened and the ramp installed. Scandalously, a humiliating and reoccurring experience for such passengers. For a country that has so many hugely successful Para-Olympian athletes that are the envy of the world, why do we forget to consider everybody’s needs for public services? After all, none of us can guarantee being fully able bodied for our entire lives.
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