Southern Rail’s Guide to Spectacularly Cocking it Up

Sourthern Rail Guide to Spectacularly Cocking it Up

If you ever wanted an object lesson in how to balls something up – look no further than Southern Rail.

A bank holiday Sunday descended into farce at Gatwick Airport’s railway station, when train passengers from London were ushered onto fleets of buses.

This issue was bank holiday engineering work between Gatwick Airport and Three Bridges.

With the weather forecast over a week before promising a scorcher, it wouldn’t take a transportation expert to work out that literally train-loads of folk would be heading to the coast.

From London, Brighton is the logical choice. Great city, great beach, loads of entertainment, good fun to be had by all. I know, I’ve lived there.

So Southern Rail are faced with a dilemna. Can’t run trains direct from Victoria to Brighton. Got to get some buses to shift the folk between Gatwick and Three Bridges.

The aforementioned transportation experts that reputedly work at Southern Rail obviously didn’t;

  • Look at the weather forecast
  • Look to see if anything was on in Brighton (sea, beach, bars, shopping, pier, etc)
  • Look at the weather forecast
  • Look to see if trains could be run over an alternative route

Kudos to those transportation experts then, for ordering some buses and parking them at Gatwick with a handful of staff to herd the arriving seaside-goers like cattle onto them.

So What’s The Problem Then?

Consider this. Brighton, on a hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend can see 250,000 people descend on the seaside resort. In fact, on a not-so hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend, Brighton is still a very popular place for a day out.

The transportation experts had ordered some buses, the number of which likely based on statistical averages taken over a 52 week rolling period of rail passenger volumes on a Sunday. Well done, clever stuff. You’d go far in a company such as Govia Thameslink Railway (Southern Rail to you and me), with that sort of insightful assessment of the situation.

So we come to the day in question. Cue the masses decending on London Victoria wanting swift carriage to Brighton for a day at the beach.

Before I start properly taking Southern Rail apart, I must mention before you all ask – these works are planned well in advance, why didn’t the masses go to Southend?

Quick answer to this one, the railway line to Southend was also closed for electrification works, and also, it’s not quite as good as Brighton in my opinion – and clearly most others too.



I would think that, if I were a Southern Rail management employee at London Victoria on Sunday morning, I would have noticed a ‘larger than normal’ flow of lilo’s, blow-up alligators, and disposable barbecues passing through my station.

Now I can’t say for certain, because I can’t get anyone to tell me – and the chances of me getting an answer out of Southern Rail is akin to my chances of watching the FA Cup final on Mars – but it would appear that one of the following happened;

  • No-one at London Victoria reported the substantial amount of beach towels with Brighton tickets passing through the station to their Control or Gatwick Airport station – or both
  • Control or Gatwick Airport station were informed and decided to do bugger all about it
  • Gatwick Airport station reported it to control, and control did bugger all about it

So the upshot and consensus here is, Southern Rail decided to do bugger all about it – until it was too late that is, and even then it was too little too late.

Gatwick Becomes Railway Hell

Cue the chaotic scenes that were broadcast on the news outside Gatwick Airport station. It wasn’t just the dangerous overcrowding outside the station itself, but the calamity of buses getting lost.

Yes, you read that correctly. There are numerous reports of buses getting lost on their way from Gatwick Airport and Three Bridges stations.

Southern responded to this on twitter; “There are currently 90 buses in operation between Three Bridges and Gatwick with some drivers brought in from out of the area, so I imagine there are a lot of drivers doing this route for the first time.”



Now I’m no driving expert, nor am I a geographical prodigy, but I would expect someone who is a professional bus driver to be able to navigate the short journey from Gatwick to Three Bridges, by, you know, road signs??

Southern did eventually draft in a few more buses, but the public relations battle was already lost.

To give the whole sorry saga one final kicker, Southern managed to magically rustle up two trains from Brighton back to London Victoria in the evening. So clearly, with the right will and proper forward planning – a train service WAS actually possible!

My View of Southern Rail?

For Southern Rail management – you should all be hanging your heads in shame. After the years of disruption through your own poor personal performances, coupled with your continued inability to run a reasonable service, you should be stripped of the franchise with immediate effect.

You have ruined a day out at the seaside for countless thousands. Refund EVERY ticket sold for travel yesterday and today, and humbly apologise before you hand the keys back to the Department for Transport you massive bunch of crooks.

You all should be dragged in front of the Transport Select Committee to explain why for years you have embezzled millions out of the travelling public to fund your duck houses.

Liked it? Take a second to support Kevin on Patreon!
become a patron button - Southern Rail's Guide to Spectacularly Cocking it Up