Requesting CCTV footage of yourself

For those of you that watch my youtube channel, you may have seen a video I posted where I included the CCTV footage from the bus of an incident I had with them.

This wasn’t the first time that I had tried to get CCTV from a bus company, nor the first from this company. The other times there were issues with the companies processes and the timescale for which they keep CCTV footage. However, this time was successful. Several people have asked how I did this, and if I can offer some kind of template. This post will be for that.

I built my template mostly off of the information on the ICO website about right of access.

First you will need to find out where you need to send this to, e-mail is probably best. Go to the companies website, in this case Arriva. You’ll want to find the privacy section of the website, most likely there will be a link in the footer. You will need to read or search through this page for information about who to contact with regards to data. This may come under terms such as; subject access request, sar, data protection, gdpr, personal information, access. In this case it is under a section about data protection and an e-mail is provided.

Subject: Subject access request – CCTV
 
Dear Sir or Madam

Subject access request

Please supply the data about me that I am entitled to under data protection law relating to external CCTV footage of [Bus route] on [date] at around [time] traveling north on Vauxhall Bridge A202 at the junction with Millbank. The numberplate was LC67AHO, other markers on the bus were N119 and HV387

I was the cyclist to the right of the bus going through the junction with Millbank, I request all external CCTV from the bus that includes me in it. Attached is a screenshot of my video to prove it was me at that location and that I am entitled to this data.

If you need any more data from me, please le me know as soon as possible. It may be helpful for you to know that data protection law requires you to respond to a request for data within one calendar month.

If you do not normally deal with these requests, please pass this on to your Data Protection Officer, or relevant staff member. If you need advice on dealing with this request, the Information Commissioner’s Office can assist you.

Gaz

They actually came back the next day in the morning. Which based on my previous experiences was very quick.

Re: SAR [reference]
 
I am in receipt of the below, exercising the right of access to personal data under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
 
So that we may accurately identify you and locate the information you require, please provide the following:

Description of clothing worn on the date in question
A recent photograph 
 
In order for us to progress the request, please also forward  a proof of identity document. This could include a copy of your birth certificate, driving licence, passport or utility bill. Please send these documents to the postal or email address listed below, ensuring that the reference number is included within the correspondence.  
 
Until we have received this information, please be advised that your request will be put on hold.
 
Should you have any questions in the meantime, or feel that there is additional information that may support your request, please contact me quoting the above reference number.

Arriva

I had a bit of to and fro with them on why they needed some of this information. I provided pictures of my bike, the clothes I was wearing at that time and my helmet so they could match it up. But they wanted something with my address on it, and some information that is quite personal. I ended up giving them a restricted copy of my utility bill and mentioned that I would make a request in the future for my data to be deleted.

They didn’t explain why they wanted this at first, but it made sense in the end. As the process of making sure the CCTV is only visible to people who have the right to see it means that they sent me a DVD in the post to my home address with the footage burned on it, that was password protected. The password was sent to me via e-mail.

As Arriva said, under article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation, data subjects have the right to know what data is held on them. They must reply to such requests within 30 days, however with CCTV processes from buses usually delete data after 14 days. It is key that you make your request as soon as possible and chase up any requests after a week if you haven’t heard back.

For UK (not including Scotland) citizens, you can use the Information Commissioners Office website as a good reference guide on your rights and how to request data.

If the company is storing and processing data on you, they must give it to you when you request it. This includes CCTV from onboard cameras or dash cams if the data is kept for any period of time. If a company tries to deny your subject access request you can ask them about how they process the data you are requesting. If they fail to comply at all, then you can let them know you will contact the ICO about them failing to comply to a subject access request, then penalties are listed online.

My knowledge of GDPR is only based around what I have read and experienced, I’m sure there are many different scenarios I haven’t covered. I will assist where I can.

Richard Duggan – Masterclass in how not to do journalism

Yesterday Richard Duggan posted an article about cyclists and how we are the most selfish and entitled road users in London.

I believe Richard has achieved what he wanted to achieve. Views on his article. Todays journalism is all about clickbait, to get your pay check you need the business to make money and the only way some of these online papers make money is from advertising. The article is full with advertising space but also broken up with links to other parts of the MyLondon website, as a reader, it’s a pain to read the article.

It is however labeled as an opinion piece, and Richard him self posted on his Facebook page that he expects hate mail for this article. There is one thing having an opinion, and there is another thing doing no research and trying to understand why something happens or why you have such a belief.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about flat earthers. It was interesting as it touched on the fact that many people just laugh at those that suggest the earth is flat. However this has a negative effect, it reinforces their opinions on the matter and thus increases the divide. What we should do instead is invite them into conversation and go through the scientific processes on why we believe the earth is round. In that documentary the flat earthers do various experiments that ‘will’ prove the earth is flat, none of them do.

So on that note, let’s look into the comments that Richard Duggan talks about and see why he might have those opinions and try to explain the reason why.

Barely a month has passed since I started working in London and already I have developed a deep resentment towards the city’s cyclists.

Welcome to London Richard, you’ve been here a month, I hope you are enjoying everything that this city has to offer you, it is vast and a great way to see the city is by bicycle.

Never before have I come across a group of road users so selfish and entitled

Two paragraphs in and we don’t know why yet

London’s cyclists seem to think they are a cut above the rest of us, whether we’re in cars or on foot.

Three paragraphs in…

I should note that, of course, I don’t mean ALL cyclists in London

Four paragraphs…

And I do appreciate that cyclists are doing their bit to save the planet.

Five paragraphs…
Note that the vast majority of cyclists don’t necessarily do it for saving the planet, we just enjoy cycling and/or hate driving/taking public transport in London.

However, there have been so many examples of bad behaviour among this unruly group that I’ve observed since the start of February, from the discourteous to the downright dangerous.

And the sixth paragraph. But it’s only been a month, so he must have seen some good stuff, right?

Let’s start with my number one bugbear; cyclists during rush hour.

Oh gosh. Those damn cyclists during rush hour, the blasphemy of those 9 to 5 office works that are taking to their trusted two wheeled steeds.

Crossing the road at times can feel like a death-defying experience and that’s made even worse by cyclists hurtling through the heavily congested streets of Central London at breakneck speed.

As a man that has only been in the capital for a month, many of us seasoned Londoners would still call Richard a tourist. Crossing the road isn’t a death defying experience if you do it how you are meant to. Either look for a crossing and wait, or cross where you like. I regularly do the later and it is very safe, you stop, you look left, look right and repeat until you see it is safe. I bet Richard is walking around looking at his phone and treating London like his rural Derbyshire, walking around whilst watching the birds.
If Richard thinks cyclists are riding around at breakneck speeds, wait till he sees what motorists are doing. I wonder if Richard knows that more than 80% of motorists don’t follow the 20mph speed limits!

I’ve even witnessed a number streaking through red lights, without a care in the world for the pedestrians trying to get from A to B.

I don’t condone those that go through red lights. Sure, some cyclists go through red lights. Very rarely is this done at speed, and very rarely do they do it in a way that endangers pedestrians. Remember cyclists are just as vulnerable as pedestrians, we have no protection, if we hit a pedestrian it’s likely we will fall as well.
I do wonder if Richard knows that more pedestrians are injured at crossings with red lights by motorists than cyclists each year. The statistics are available from the Department for Transport websites.

You can’t even escape them on the Underground, where cyclists can take a folded bike anywhere at anytime.

But just because a bike is folded up doesn’t mean it doesn’t take up space.

They’re even on the Tube

Travelling on the Tube during rush hour is a painful enough experience without falling over a folded bicycle that’s taking up space where a person should stand.

I wonder if Richard complains about people taking suitcases on the underground as well. This is such a problem for Richard that he takes 3 paragraphs to comment about all his bug bears with cyclists on the tube!

I also find it astonishing so many cyclists think it’s acceptable to bike around without wearing a helmet.

While there’s no law to compel cyclists to wear helmets, the Highway Code strongly suggests they wear them, for obvious reasons.

As Richard mentions in the second paragraph, helmets are not compulsory. I wonder if Richard knows what helmets are designed for? Bicycle helmets are designed to minimise concussion to the brain. But they are only designed and tested for tests at around 15mph and falling onto a flat surface, simulating a fall from a bicycle with no external forces. Not for protection in a collision with a tipper truck turning over your legs.
Countries that force helmet use such as Australia have seen a decline in people cycling but not a similar decline in injuries. There are various complex reasons why this is such, and there are many resources and studies available for reading on this.

This London junction has been labelled ‘dangerous’ and too many cross looking at their phones

A link to another post on MyLondon, I hear this is near the MyLondon offices and Richard is often crossing it.

Why on Earth would you risk your own safety – not to mention the potential additional strain you could cause to our overwhelmed A&E departments – by not wearing one?

Even if no one wore a helmet, the benefit to getting people out and exercising far out weighs the additional potential cost to the NHS from head injures. We have factors such as safety in numbers, the more cyclists we have the more people get used to them and the safer we are. And there is the obvious reduction in strain on the NHS from people being fitter.

Then, of course, there are those who cycle at night without lights or reflective jackets, again a selfish decision which can have devastating consequences.

I see far more motorists without correct lighting on their vehicles at night than I do cyclists. Espcially since most cars now have a dashboard that is lit up all the time by LEDs, it isn’t as obvious to drivers that their lights are off than it used to be. And the consequences of people driving without lights is far greater than cyclists doing so. Of course I don’t condone any road users that use the road at night without lights.
Reflective clothing on the other hand, not required and of course of no use if motorists don’t have their lights on.

And, FYI, there are cycle lanes in London for a reason, please stop pedalling away on pavements.

Cycle lanes are often filled with glass, pot holes and parked cars. You don’t have to cycle on them. Of course cycling on the pavements is not something I would personally do, but think about why people might do it? Perhaps the dangerous speeding motorists who pass cyclists closely or knock them off means that people are scared to cycle on the road.

Richard has previously been shortlisted for ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards in 2018 and 2017 according to his bio on Essex Live and his Muck Rack bio. I’m guessing he got those from his quality articles on Northumbria’s Best Bums 2015: winners and How to cheat on holiday and get away with it.

The point I’m making is that Richard Duggan is obviously looking at having some form of career in journalism and as an editor. But his opinions on cyclists are just that, opinions and mostly because he, like the majority of society, is blind to the real safety issues on our roads. Motorists kill more than 1,700 people a year in the UK. Cyclists kill on average 2 people a year. Cyclists are people, motorists are people and some people are arseholes. Don’t be blind to the majority of good cyclists that stop at red lights, have lights and don’t ride on the pavement. Also don’t be blind to the speeding motorists, phone using motorists and the motorists going through red lights. Those are the real danger to our pedestrians in our city, along with the pollution that petrol and diesel engines bring.

We must challenge our own opinions, do good quality research and try to understand why people do various things. Richard I hope you enjoy London as much as I do, hopefully you’ll find shortly that cycling is by far the best mode of transport.

Should sentencing be tougher?

Last week Road.cc published a post about motoring offences and tougher sentencing. Certainly we can see from their post that there is such a variance in how offending motorists are changed in these cases.

They touch on the fact that we need more than just tougher sentencing to drivers that show willful neglect to the safety of others. We also need:

  • Better driver training
  • Investment in cycling infrastructure
  • More substantial driving bans and non-custodial punishments.

I think we need two further things: Stricter following of points system and more traffic police.

Every year or so there is an article in the press about how many drivers are driving with more than 12 points on their license. Our current system works based on a points system where you are allowed 12 points on your license, after 5 years these are removed. If you go over the 12 points then you lose your license. But it seems that claiming exceptional hardship to not having your license results in you being allowed to carry on driving. This undermines the system. Everyone knows how this works (or should do) and if you are close to the 12 points limit then you should be careful.

This BBC article from 2017 states that over 10,000 motorists are driving with more than 12 points on their license. That’s 10,000 people who for some reason can’t follow the rules and as such accumulated more points that allowed. Because of magistrates allowing people who plead exceptional hardship for various reasons (along the lines of not having a car will impact their lives), these should have been reasons for driving safely, especially when already accumulated points on their license. This makes the system a mockery, those of us who drive safely and understand the potential danger we could cause with our several tonne vehicle when driven at speed or distracted, are doing so pointlessly when those that should be punished harshly for not following the rules that they must do with in accordance of their license go basically unpunished.
Worth noting that the DVLA have said that the 10,000 motorists reported to have more than 12 points on their license also included motorists who had already served a ban for said points and as such the figure isn’t totally accurate.

We also need more traffic police, with cuts to police forces across the country, one of the first hit front line units is the traffic unit. This has an unfortunate affect or people not being pulled over for their driving mistakes and learning that they need to do better. As a result people get bad habits, and drive with the impression that they won’t get stopped for doing anything.
Often you will hear people say that it is a waste of time doing minor traffic stops and the police should focus on more serious crimes. In reality however these minor traffic stops can and often result in more serious crimes being picked up.

I already see there is a huge variance in how police forces deal with traffic offences reported to them via members of the public. I posted at the end of 2018 about the successes I’ve had with my reports to the MET. Comments that I often get back on tweets like these are from other people in the country saying how their police force doesn’t care and does nothing.
I’ve reported to the MET for the past 9 or so years and have seen a massive change not only in how to report but also of staff levels and commitment in future technologies. Their current online reporting form is very impressive, it’s regularly updated, with one of the more recent updates being the ability to upload video footage on their portal.
It’s so impressive in fact that they and providing the same form to other police forces around the country. Surrey police for example use the same form.

A response to the LTDA, Taxi and Kamil

On the 30th of October 2018 issue 430 of Taxi was published. A ‘newspaper’ published by the LTDA for its members. Page 17 of that issue contains comments from taxi members, we will be looking at the comment from Kamil.

GIVE CYCLE GAZ THE SLIP
I was recently involved in altercation with Gareth Williams [pictured] known as CycleGaz on YouTube. I want to alert and warn other black cab drivers about him. It’s so easy to be trapped by his video recording tactics, and the lengths this individual will go to give us a bad reputation on the road. His videos can easily go viral should a driver interact with him.
In my case, I saw him on Brixton Road. Gareth was wearing a face cover in an attempt to disguise himself so he could not be recognised. The moment he attempted to get close to me, I drove off. He has a video hidden in his head gear and it’s not visible. He attempted to get close to my window in order to converse with me and get my face shot, while revealing the contents of my dashboard. As you will see if you watch the video, but I never gave him the chance.
I just wanted to raise awareness of CycleGaz’s activities and his vigilante cyclists. Also, with him were two other cyclists.
He reported me to the police. The police watched the footage and found nothing. As result no further action was taken.

watch the video

kamil

When I first read this I chuckled, as clearly from the description Kamil gives it isn’t me, as I don’t fit that description or behaviour type. Then I watched the video and it links to one of mine! This was the incident that sparked me to get a helmet camera again.

I was cycling through Brixton and was passing Kamils cab, he was holding his phone in his right hand just below the door line, looking down at it and interacting with it. This is just before sunset, and there is light rain. He has a passenger on board. I called him out on his phone use and that was that. Further down the road the lane merges and he is clearly being an arse over it and won’t let me merge. Very professional driving, but what do we expect from someone that was just caught using his mobile device whilst having a passenger on board.

Kamil is correct that the Met took no action, I did report his phone use and what I would call intimidating driving to them. I believe their response is fine, the evidence I recorded on that day was not sufficient for them to take further action and as a result of that I got another video camera that I use on my helmet to get video footage of drivers using their phones. So thank you Kamil for spurring me on to get a helmet camera again.

What’s interesting is that the incident description that is published in Taxi issue 430 does not match the video footage it links to.

  • You can clearly hear my voice, so unlikely I’m wearing a face cover (I never cover my face anyway).
  • I didn’t attempt to get close to him.
  • I don’t have video in my head gear that is hidden.
  • I didn’t attempt to get close to his window to get his face shot (the cameras I had at the time are attached to my bike) or go near his dashboard (remember his phone was in his right hand when I saw it, not on has dashboard).

Taxi also published a name ‘Gareth Williams’ and an apparent picture of me. Now that name isn’t hard to find, it’s a name that has been used by the media when quoting me. Is it my real name? Maybe, maybe not. It could be described as the ‘John Smith’ of Wales. The picture posted is not one of myself, but of another cyclist who is based in Manchester. How would Kamil know that it was me anyway? As according to him I had a face cover.

Kamil drives a nice Vito Taxi and with that he has the Taxi Witness system installed, he has a sticker saying as much in his rear window. Why hasn’t Kamil released footage from his cab that backs up his statement? Why didn’t he use it as a reference to aid him in my description? Is it because Kamil has the three camera system that includes a camera in his cab that points at him? Incriminating him self isn’t such a good idea, so I can see why he hasn’t released that.

Why has Taxi published this? Why haven’t they spent the time to review it? They didn’t contact me first despite publishing what they believe to be my full name and a picture of me. As a result of this I’ve had numerous tweets and messages from Taxi drivers who want to find out more information about me. Some have threatened to run me over. Some have lied about previously having ‘dealings’ with me.

The underlying message of this piece in Taxi is fine and should stick, the method is all wrong. There are many cyclists on the roads who film, just like I do. Many of us will report you to the police if we see you breaking the law. Remember you are professional drivers who drive people around as a service. You must behave and take peoples safety seriously. I’m not starting fights, I’m not looking for issues, I’m not a vigilante. I’m just reporting what I see. I am CycleGaz

What’s really going on at Southern?

The issues with Southern is really rather complex, so I’m going to have to break this down.

The History

Govia has been running the South Central service since 2001, renamed Southern in May 2004. They took over the service from Connex South Central that was relived of their franchise because of poor time keeping, 1 out 5 trains was late.

When the end of the franchise came up in 2009, reports suggested that TFL where interested in taking over the metro routes of Southern franchise as part of the Overground network. Nothing actually happened and the franchise was awarded to Govia again.

At the end of the South Central franchise in July 2015 it was merged into the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise which is owned Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

Southern did come under fire in 2007 and 2008 for changing timetables and where trains were split, this lead to increase in journey times for some customers and when trains were not split meant that customers expecting to go to Arun Valley where instead left in Horsham with no way to get to their destination.

They first came under fire for punctuality in January 2015 when it was reported that the 7:29 from Brighton to London Victoria failed to arrive on time on every 240 times it ran in 2014. In the year between April 2015 and March 2016, only 20% of the trains run on the Southern network arrived on time.

Before the issues with 2014, Southern was regarded as a good railway company. Not having many issues and generally offering a good service. Many of the same people who ran the company back then, run it now. So the argument that they don’t know how to operate a train company and should be stripped of such right, is frankly rubbish.

The Franchise

With the merge in 2015 to the TSGN franchise there was a change in the franchise. It became a service delivery contract, much in the same way the London Overground and London Buses work. The Department for Transport (DFT) set the requirements, TSGN must pay the DFT the rail fares they receive and collect a service fee from them. This service fee is fixed, so run your trains late or on time, they receive the same fee. However there are fines to be paid if the service is late. This type of contract is key to what is happening here. The DFT effectively tells TSGN what to do.

The idea behind this huge merger (TSGN is the largest rail company in the UK on many metrics) is that it would be easier to manage all of these payments and more if one single company is running through the lines that are restricted due to the London Bridge and Thameslink upgrade. This along with trackside issues with Network Rail lead to lots of issues with delays.

Back before nationalisation of the rail lines in 1948, historically each train company built and operated its own lines and stations. This meant that there were slight differences with how each one was run, and even under British rail these were not changed. So current day we have Southern that on its mainline routes runs with a driver and a guard. The guard controls the doors. On the Thameslink service there is no guard, all trains are DOO. The merger of these under this franchise is eventually going to see them using the same rolling stock and having one running DOO and one not, it is going to cause issues.

Trackside Issues

There have unfortunately been plenty of trackside issues. With the works at London Bridge and on Thameslink reducing lines down heavily to sink holes under the train line hitting not once but twice! These issues aren’t anything to do with ‘Southern’, they are Network Rail issues, and when the work over runs or if there are just random signalling problems these can cause huge delays on the network, which results in cancelled trains, delays or even stations being skipped. Network Rail actually compensates GTR for this, and in 2015-2016 GTR claimed in £29 million. This is meant to be used to reimburse customers for delays to their journeys, however you have to submit to ‘Southern’ your claim to receive anything.

The combination of trackside issues, employee sickness and strikes in the middle of 2016 caused real issues for customers that rely on Southern trains to get to and from work. With wide-spread reports of people getting into trouble at work (with some even losing their jobs) and it regularly taking people several hours to get home and often missing time in the evenings with their kids.

DOO

When British Rail built the Thameslink route in the 1980’s it felt that the Guards role was redundant with the stock now being electric and thus the service has always been DOO. As mentioned in the franchise section, with Thameslink and Southern looking to share rolling stock, it makes sense that they both run in the same way. At present Southern already does run a DOO service on its metro, Gatwick Express and Brighton Express routes.

It has been mentioned by the RMT that as part of the Service Delivery Contract GTR will get a large bonus if they meet targets for reducing ticketless travel. It’s suggested that they are moving towards DOO so that guards can spend more time checking tickets. They also wouldn’t be compulsory (they are now) so the trains could run if they were not on board. I do recall that 10 years ago guards on Southern trains did check tickets when they could move about the train. I can’t recall any such activities recently, but that could be down to my usage of the train being very different now.

Staffing Issues

GTR runs Southern with a shortage of staff, they rely on overtime to get the trains back to locations where the next shift can take over. With the plan to update the stock and with changes to London Bridge, staff needed to be taken out of work and trained on the changes, leaving even less drivers for the trains.

The conductors are also run on a shortage, but Southern doesn’t appear to be training/hiring many. Instead looking to turn more services DOO. Some are mentioning that this is coming from the DFT

It was heavily reported that members of staff were pulling sick days as a form of protest and that this caused issues with services as they couldn’t run. It’s believed this was an issue at first, but the RMT have reported that Southern were using this as an excuse for months after. I recall reports of Southern removing staff parking privileges and travel cards, but I’m struggling to find any sources.

The Unions

The main player has been the RMT, with ASLEF striking in December 2016. From my understanding, the RMT are asking for the same agreements as Arriva Wales and First Scotrail, however the DFT aren’t agreeing to that.

The Unions are claiming an objection to DOO on the grounds on safety. Various reasons have been brought up. Mostly around passenger and driver safety. As the driver is not expected to leave his cab at all, and with the member of public not being able to get in contact with the driver if they are not conscious, then if there is an issue either side of the door, it isn’t something that can be easily dealt with.

It’s been commented on the quality of technology available in the cab for viewing the doors, and that on long trains the driver can’t possibly see if everyone is clear of the doors, especially on a curved platform. However, neither can the guard, although they may be more strategically positioned in the middle of the train which gives them a better view. Sometimes however they are only using a monitoring system within the train. At stations such as East Croydon, you have a dispatcher on the platform, sometimes even two, who let the guard/driver know when it is clear and safe to depart. And doors are often closed and locked up to 30 seconds before the train is leaving to make sure it is visible to all that there is no one stuck in the doors. At stations in London there are mirrors and monitors where drivers pull up and they use those to view the platform.

I can’t see any cases where DOO has specifically been a cause of an incident in the modern era of the railway. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. The British railway system is one of the safest in Europe.

Aslef have said the following on why they are striking:

The reason for today’s strike action on Southern Rail is because of a dispute with the company. Southern is withdrawing safety trained guards from its trains without consulting its staff or negotiating with their trade union reps. The driver of a 12 car trains carrying 1,100 passengers in the rush hour will have just two seconds to check 24 sets of doors. Professional train drivers know that this risks passengers’ safety. They may not see someone falling between the train and the platform, nor someone caught in the doors. And in an emergency, passengers may be at risk if the driver is working alone on the train.

With government backing, the company has broken longstanding agreements with the union that make sure train drivers can do their job safely. And worse, they haven’t properly consulted but have tried to impose changes through bullying and intimidation. No wonder there’s been such a huge loss of trust and goodwill on the part of union members towards the company. And it is this that has left us no option but to go on strike.

ASLEF’s constructive relationships with other rail companies show there is a better way. Earlier this year, we negotiated a positive agreement with ScotRail in Scotland. Southern have not been willing to follow this example and negotiate an agreement with us.

The dispute between ASLEF and Southern has also been made worse by political interference. It was clear that the Southern franchise was failing even before this dispute – it doesn’t even employ enough drivers to run all its scheduled services! Nonetheless, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has lined up behind the discredited company as it has made a mockery of its passengers and staff.

With record passenger numbers travelling on the trains, we need more rail staff, not fewer. We will get better services for passengers by investing in modern railway infrastructure and rolling stock – not by downgrading guards, taking them off trains and leaving drivers to manage trains on their own, something they are not prepared to do, given the risk to passengers.

We understand the anger felt by of regular commuters on the Southern franchise area and we share their frustration. Thank you for supporting your professional train drivers to keep you safe when you travel. If you want to show your support, tell @southernrail to abandon their plans to take safety trained guards off their trains.

This further backs up a few things said here, “government backing” although I think it’s more than just backing, more pushing. It probably isn’t fair to say that Southern has been failling before this despute, espcially if it is regarding staffing, as the franchise has been run that way with some success for quite some time.

As part of the strike, Aslef have told their drivers to not do overtime, basically banning it. This causes a problem when drivers have been needed to do overtime to get too and from locations. This appears to be something that is happening outside of the strike dates, so the foresable future could be even more painful for Southern users.

The DFT

As I mentioned previously, this isn’t a typical franchise. The DFT in effect tell GTR what they must do with TSGN. David Boyle received the following comment on his blog post The real reason Southern Rail services have imploded from a member of staff at Southern that wished to stay anonymous.

This is in fact a management contract which differ’s from every other agreement throughout the country. All other TOC’s hold something called a franchise agreement. Everyone is different but essentially they are responsible for the day to day running of that network. They have specific requirements they have to meet but they generally make the decisions, however with govia’s management agreement they have no control or make no decisions. All he terms, targets and and plans have been set out by the DFT. Govia are simply there to implement the changes.
This is unique and has occurred for one reason and one reason only. A test bed for the rest of the country.
In 2011 a report called the McNulty report was published and set out a number of wide ranging proposals for cutting cost on he railways. Since then the DFT has been putting together a plan to ‘streamline’ costing on the railway. One of the major changes was to rid the network of guards. (Along with many other members of staff)
What we are seeing (along with arriva Wales and first scotrail) is the beginning of these changes. Many people have asked why MP’s and media outlets have been so quite on the matter and as to why govia have no fear of losing the franchise. This is because they are purely the axemen. The DFT will not remove them as they want the company to be the face of the changes to avoid huge public objections aimed at the conservative government. The senior management are purely being told what to do. It’s written in their agreement. I have been through the 668 pages of the agreement and they are given financial bonuses based on the inline notation of the changes. However only a freedom of information request will allow us to obtain the actual financial figures. The CEO Charles Horton was brought in to do a similar job (albeit in a smaller scale) at connex. Peter wilkinson speech was an insight into the DFT’s and governments plans. It also per toy aligns with the plan to rid the country of unions.
After many failed attempts with filed bills both in the House of Parliament and House of Lords, the conservatives see this as a perfect opportunity to kill of the unions. No staff = no members = no unions.

This would certainly explain why there has been little action against GTR, as mentioned previously, GTR took over the South Central franchise in 2001 because it was performing badly. History certainly would suggest that the DFT would step in and attempt to sort this out. However if they have an alternative motive, then why would they?

The News and Politicians

It’s been widely reported in the news, but not in any real detail. We’ve only heard issues of guard sickness and unions striking. With all blame being pointed towards Southern.

There have been calls from MP’s and the Mayor to remove Southern of their franchise. With no hint of this ever happening. I personally see such calls from such people as a highlight of their lack of knowledge of what is going on. For example the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, calling for TFL to take over the metro routes is just pure pointless. As I’ve pointed out, the metro routes are already DOO. Taking that out of the TSGN franchise is pointless. Do we really think that the DFT would hand it over? I see ‘Southern’ as the puppet and the DFT as the puppet master, replacing the puppet with someone else isn’t going to change anything, the same strings will be pulled and we will only see the same results as passengers.

Summary

Is it even possible to sum this up? There hasn’t been any clear word from the DFT, but it is suspect that they are playing a part of this. Them being the puppet master is a great analogy, they aren’t visible but control everything we see and hear. Changing the puppet, in my opinion won’t change a thing. They are taking this opportunity to attempt to break the unions and roll out DOO across the board in an attempt to reduce costs on the train line. The usage of Southern is an attempt to keep the government out of the limelight.

Are we going to see the light at the end of the tunnel in 2017 or is our bumpy ride to work about to get stuck at a red signal?

Sources:

City Metric – The Southern Rail mess isn’t a privatisation failure – it’s a return to the 1970s

David Boyle – Southern Rail: mutualise not nationalise

London Reconections – Meltdown Monday: How Southern’s Problems Run Deeper Than Disputes