My father spent his whole life working for Southern Rail – first as a porter, then a shunter, and finally as a guard.
I met him one time, by accident, at London Victoria station, on my way home on leave after signing off from the Esso Cheyenne tanker in the Pool of London.
He asked me if I had a ticket and I told him, no, so he led me through a side gate and I rode home with him in the guard’s van, a rough wooden-floored caboose which had one seat, a periscope, a dozen push bikes and a hamper of racing pigeons.
When we reached Littlehampton he gave me a copy of the Evening Standard, his leather flag and lamp bag to carry and he carried my case and told me to give the paper to the ticket collector.
He nodded to the man who thanked me for the paper and we crossed the road to the Terminus public house where he bought me a pint of bitter.
That was the only time I ever saw him at work and the journey took about an hour and three quarters.
Last week, travelling from Victoria it took nearly three and a half hours.
The suits say they want to provide a better service to their customers and the union says it wants to provide a safer service and we are, literally, jammed in the middle.
Both sides are entrenched in their positions and there is no giving way from either.
It is my belief t hat there are unseen outside forces at work here and that somewhere, somehow, someone sees some long-term gain for them if the trade union is broken.
I feel they will not bend and, as the current ACAS talks falter, this interminable misery is set to continue for some time yet.
Maybe if I offered to pay the ten bob I owe them for that long ago dodged fare it would help...
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