David Boyle, the author of Cancelled! writes:
I have two questions about the unravelling of Southern Rail, and the plight of the passengers, and I’m going to ask them both in the hope that people can answer them for me – but I’m also going to suggest some answers myself.
First, why do the platform indicators on Southern now provide us with slightly different times than the departure boards – not at the London terminals, but everywhere else? Second, why was Govia Thameslink (GTR) so confident about the talks going on now that they were able to promise to reinstate the full timetable on Tuesday (we will see, of course!).
Lets try the second one first. This may be deeply immodest of me, but it strikes me that the sheer weight of response to the #passengerstrike, still mainly a threat and not yet a reality, but extremely noisy on social media (3,500 retweeted or shared the Guardian article about it just from the Guardian website), may have played a role.
When I write about how people had reacted on the train, when I asked them to join me at the barriers and refuse to show their tickets – and I quoted G. K. Chesterton (“We are the people of England/That never have spoken yet”) – I believe ministers realised that the game was up, and they have already agreed to the concessions to drivers that GTR have been asking permission to make.
If there is no settlement, I will have been proved wrong. We shall see. In the meantime, for want of other evidence, the mere threat of a #passengerstrike seems to have had its effect. All the more reason for putting it into practice when GTR have tried and failed to reinstate their full service.
Second question, and this one is related. Two things have changed about the departures lists boards – they say ‘on time’ when the platform indicators are showing some minutes of delay. They are also not showing cancelled trains. I assume that both these new definitions feed through into the official statistics you can see on trains.im – which presumably provide day-to-day statistics which ease GTR into a better light. It may be why those statistics suggest that they cancelled only three per cent of trains today, which seems unlikely…
Are they not playing straight with us or the government? I think we should be told. Or are they suffering from Ministers Disease – the fatal delusion that, if they can change the way statistics show a problem, then it has been successfully tackled?