Desperate rear guard action

Hastings Observer letters
Hastings Observer letters

From: Eric Waters, Ingleside Crescent, Lancing

‘September’s second Southern Rail strike begins’; ‘Latest Southern RMT strike today’; ‘No deal reached with Southern train drivers’.

These are just three of the headlines that have appeared in the Observer recently.

How much longer must we wait before we see, splashed across the front page, a headline reading, ‘Passengers Strike Back’ and a photo of a picket line outside of Hastings Station?

The story beneath the headline would explain that the Fed-Up-To-The-Back-Teeth Rail Users Union was withdrawing payment of fares and demanding the immediate removal of all drivers and guards from their trains, on the grounds that their services are no longer fit for purpose, nor of any use to man or beast.

“What Don’t We Want?” “Drivers And Guards!” “When Don’t We Want Them?” “Now! Now! Now!”

Actually, this is not as ridiculous as it may first appear.

Automatic Train Operation (ATO) is already in use on London’s Docklands Light Railway, together with four of London Undergrounds lines. Four more LU lines will also be automatic by 2022.

It is also planned that the Thameslink and Crossrail lines through London will run under ATO.

Perhaps this is what is really behind these seeming never-ending withdrawals of labour by Southern’s drivers and guards; a desperate rear guard action to keep our trains running in exactly the same way that George Stephenson laid down for Britain’s first railway, the Stockton and Darlington, in 1825.

Local commuters must be hoping that, on the UK railways 200th anniversary in 2025, the occasion will be celebrated by trains arriving and departing at Hastings Station without one single member of either the RMT or ASLEF on board.

Incidentally, ASLEF stands for the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen which just shows how far this union is living in the past; the last British Rail main-line steam-hauled passenger train, manned by a real locomotive steam engineer and a real fireman, ran on 11 August 1968.

Perhaps someone should tell them that and put them out of their misery!