This morning the only direct train (7.01) from Shoreham-By-Sea (SSE) to London Bridge (LBG) was cancelled. Southern’s Twitter team cited their “zero-tolerance graffiti policy” as the reason for this cancellation.
Should This Cause a Train to be Cancelled?
Obviously, many people find graffiti unpleasant, but should Southern react by cancelling a busy commuter service and delaying hundreds of people from getting to work on time … not to mention causing overcrowding on the following train?
It may depend on the nature of the graffiti. Whilst a graffiti artist’s personal tag may be undesirable, surely it is better to let the train run in order to provide the reliable service passengers have a right to expect. A graffiti removal team could be scheduled to address the problem after train carriages have completed their day’s work.
Suppose It is Offensive
We don’t actually know what graffiti was on the train. Suppose the carriages had been “decorated” with racist slogans, an incitement to commit violence or images of an explicit sexual nature. Would we be happy to let those images be paraded across the Sussex countryside and into our capital city? Or would we be prepared to be late to work in order to prevent such offensive material being “promoted” on the side of our trains?
Scope for Southern to Improve?
There is scope for Southern to be a little more flexible here: they could allow trains with tags to run but withdraw trains from service if the material were considered highly offensive.
But perhaps we’re placing too much emphasis on how to react after the event. As disgruntled commuters were quick to point out, perhaps the zero-tolerance policy should focus more on preventing the graffiti in the first place. Whilst Southern’s social media team did confirm they “do have security on services in sidings and such”, they remain tight-lipped on how the graffiti managed to occur despite these measures – and not for the first time this year.
Either there are insufficient security staff (is Southern not putting enough resources into prevention?) or those who are employed are not up to the job. Maybe the question we should be asking is this: Which costs more – hiring sufficient security staff or paying out to the relatively small percentage of passengers who bother to claim compensation under the Delay Repay scheme?