Editor's Blog

Hell on wheels

I write to you as an outcast – I have been banished from London.

Quite what I have done to deserve my expulsion from the capital, I don’t know, but banished I have been and banished I remain.

You see, I live in Brighton. And as such, the current state of the Southern rail system means that I have had to give up trying to get to London.

You may have noticed the rail strikes last week that caused chaos across the whole of the Southern rail network. Commuters filled the news bulletins, raging at rail bosses, or the Department of Transport, or the striking employees – or for a full house on Rail Strike Bingo, all three.

My own particular tale of woe (violins at the ready) is that I had to give up my position as a panellist at the Christmas edition of EventHuddle as there was simply no realistic way for me to get to the venue. And many of my colleagues at CAT Towers were similarly stricken by the strike.

However, it isn’t just on strike days that the service is awful; it’s every day of the week and it’s been that way for months. Last minute unexplained train cancellations, hellish overcrowding on the ones that do turn up - you simply can't get on a train and guarantee that you'll end up at your destination.

It never used to be this way. But now there are countless stories of meetings rescheduled, jobs lost, exams missed, appointments abandoned - every single day all across the network.

Last month Eleanor Harris, the chief executive of Brighton and Hove's shiny new i360, even identified the ‘diabolical’ train service as a key factor in giving up her role to spend more time with her children.

While the row is ostensibly about safety, and whether drivers should be given the responsibility of closing the train doors, it isn’t really about that at all. It’s the latest skirmish in a battle that has been raging since the very dawn of time itself – between the Tories and the trade unions.

I offer no answers, opinions or suggestions as to what should happen next – other than to say that it’s in the entire industry’s interest that this gets sorted out as quickly as possible. The longer this drags on – and there is no end in sight at present – the more likely it is that the entire Southern rail network becomes a no-go-zone for meetings and events.

Because how can you hold events at venues that you can’t be certain that delegates will even be able to get to?

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