WEST SUSSEX RAIL USERS ASSOCIATION
64, Brampton Court, Stockbridge Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8PD
Tel: 01243 788028
In this newsletter there are details of the continuing industrial action, membership renewal, Easter engineering work, performance, timetable changes and Wi-Fi developments.
The RMT is extending the misery caused to passengers by calling a further 1 day strike on Saturday 8 April and has linked it with similar planned strikes on Merseyrail and Northern Rail. Both of these Operators serve Aintree Racecourse and it is rather more than coincidence that the 8 April is the date of the Grand National. Southern will be meeting the RMT on 4 April in an attempt to bring an end to this long running dispute. The drivers’ Union ASLEF agreed a settlement with Southern a few days ago and this been has put to their members with a recommendation to accept. The result of their ballot will be known on 3 April.
If the April 8 strike goes ahead, Southern expect to operate most of their services. On the last one day strike they operated 92% of the service and they expect to be able to repeat that next week.
On the RMT dispute, Southern has now introduced the On Board Supervisor (OBS) role and many conductors have moved to this new role. Southern has confirmed that every train that had a conductor will have either a conductor as before or an OBS. The main change is that responsibility for closing train doors on those trains equipped with CCTV and at stations with adequate lighting passes to the driver. Where there is no CCTV, as on the class 313s used on the Coastway, conductors will remain in charge of door closing.
Some of the problems in 2016 were caused by driver and conductor shortages. Hopefully this will be a thing of the past as some 160 new drivers have completed their training and a further 90 are being trained. And 100 new OBS’s have been recruited and many of these have completed their training.
Our membership year runs from 1 March and subscriptions for 2017-18 are now due. Many members have already paid their subscription either directly or by standing order. If you have not paid, a renewal form is enclosed. The subscription remains at £2 and can be paid by cheque through the post, by direct bank credit or by standing order, the renewal form gives details of all these options. A few did not pay their subscription for last year and 2015 and rather than deleting them as members, we are asking them to pay for 2 or 3 years and for those members the payment slip shows £4 or £6 as appropriate.
For the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend, for once, there are no major works other than at Victoria on Easter Sunday and no blockades. On Easter Sunday, Victoria will be closed and all our trains will start and terminate at London Bridge. On that day the line between Barnham and Bognor Regis will be closed with buses replacing trains. On Sunday April 9 there will be engineering work between Three Bridges and Billingshurst with replacement buses.
At last, there are signs of improvement and this is reflected in the latest update to the Joint Improvement Plan put together by Network Rail, Southern and Thameslink. This can be downloaded at http://www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/performance-results/performance-improvement-plan/.
There is hope that the figures will improve further over the coming months if there is a cessation of the industrial action and improvements to the resilience of the Network Rail infrastructure, failures of which were responsible for over 50% of delays in 2016.
The second stage of the consultation on the 2018 timetable starts in a few weeks and we will be involved in this. We will report on the proposals in a future Newsletter. From what we have seen so far, the main effect for the Arun Valley line is the replacement of the current Southern services between Horsham and London Bridge by Thameslink trains running through London Bridge and on to Peterborough. The services between Victoria and Bognor/Portsmouth/Southampton are likely to remain much as now. However, we have received some confirmation that our daily service from Southampton and Bognor to London Bridge will remain and that we might get the addition of a Chichester and Portsmouth portion on the return service. We will be pressing for improvements to West Coastway services particularly on the hourly trains between Portsmouth and Brighton (Southern’s one Inter-City service as it connects the only three cities on the Southern Network outside London – Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton) with fewer stops and replacing the 40 year-old class 313s with class 377s Electrostars which are air-conditioned and have toilets.
Southern plans to equip all the Class 377 Electrostars with Wi-Fi and power points by 2020. Many Southern stations now have Wi-Fi facilities and my experience of this at Chichester and Horsham has been good. For those of you who use the new Class 700 Thameslink units, these will also get Wi-Fi and seat back tables (the latter will be retro-fitted to the units already in service).
There are no significant timetable changes in May. The next major timetable change will be in 2018 and as mentioned above we will be involved in the consultation.
We now have a Facebook page at facebook.com/wsrua. Please “like” it if you want to keep in touch and contribute through that medium.
WSRUA gave a brief presentation on our work and current activities at the Community Rail Partnership stakeholder event held on 1st November 2012 at Christ's Hospital School. A copy of the slide set is available to view here (PDF). We are continuing our close involvement with the CRP, of which our current secretary/treasurer is vice-chair.
Below is a Southern Press Notice about their Eyewitness initiative to deter and report low-level crime on the Arun Valley line.
Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert MP has launched Southern’s internal Eyewitness initiative to the public for the first time at Arundel railway station.
Mr Herbert joined Southern senior staff, Rail User Group and West Sussex Community Rail Partnership representatives to launch a trial of Southern’s award winning low-level crime reporting system to passengers who use Southern services between Arundel and Crawley.
Eyewitness is a scheme which allows the reporting of low-level crime by e-mail. The system has been used successfully as an in-house system where Southern staff have e-mailed members of Southern’s Safer Travel and Revenue Protection Teams to report incidences of vandalism, anti-social behaviour and fare evasion. The system allows Southern to respond quickly where officers are in the area, and to identify patterns, trends and hotspots which enables more intelligent deployment of Rail Neighbourhood Officers and Revenue Protection Officers when detailing patrols.
Commenting on the initiative, Mr Herbert said: "I was delighted to help launch the next phase of Southern's Eyewitness scheme which will provide passengers with an effective way to report antisocial behaviour on trains.
"This is further action by Southern who already fund Rail Neighbourhood Officers to help tackle crime and provide a reassuring uniformed presence on trains and at stations. The scheme doesn’t replace police officers, it adds to them, and I believe it's welcomed by the public.
"The minority who can make rail journeys miserable for everyone else need to be dealt with, and I am pleased that Southern is playing its part."
Southern’s Head of Revenue Protection and Security, Martin Grier said: “Eyewitness has been a tremendous success since we introduced it internally 18 months ago. Now we look forward to even better results now that we are asking our passengers to tell us about low-level crime that they have seen.”
In the last 12 months, reported crime on the Arun Valley has fallen overall by 71%. At Billingshurst station, incidences of crime reduced from 28 last year to zero this year.
Passengers witnessing crime between Arundel and Crawley stations can report what they’ve see, where they saw it, when they saw it and a brief description of the offender(s) by sending an e-mail to the dedicated address found on posters at leaflets at staffed stations between Arundel and Crawley.