Beleaguered Southern Rail has launched a new social media campaign in an attempt to drum up opposition to upcoming strikes organised by some of its workers.
Using the hashtag
#SouthernBackOnTrack, the company’s Twitter account is asking passengers to tweet the RMT Union, the group behind the industrial action, and voice their frustrations.
Unsurprisingly the campaign has backfired as Southern Rail itself has come under long-running and intense criticism for delays and poor customer service fuelled by high levels of staff sickness.
Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink, has been locked in a bitter battle with the RMT over the role of conductors on trains.
Southern Railway has set a deadline of Thursday for the RMT to accept an offer aimed at averting strikes scheduled to begin 11 October, or it will terminate conductors’ contracts.
The changes which will mean drivers will be the only staff on board its trains.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Govia Thameslink and the government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute.
“Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale driver only operation without agreement.
“Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains.
“The guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances.”
Govia Thameslink (GTR) has called the strikes “shameful” and “scaremongering”.
Passenger services director Angie Doll added: “The union leadership’s claims about jobs, pay, safety are trumped-up make believe.”
Ironically, after sending the offending tweet Southern Rail’s feed consisted mainly of apologies for delays and unpleasant smells..
Earlier this month Southern Rail announced profits of nearly £100 million despite being “unable to run a functioning service”.
Go-Ahead, which owns the rail operator Govia, confirmed statutory profits before tax increased 27% to £99.8 million in the year to 2 July, with revenues up 4.5% to £3.4 billion.
Govia Thameslink Railway were on Friday keen to point out that Southern Rail, had not made a profit, rather its parent company, Go-Ahead, had in other areas of its business.
“Southern made zero profits last year. All our income went into delivering the service. The profits figure being reported relates to other businesses owned by our parent company, primarily the bus division. Southern is not expected to make a profit in the coming year either.”