Walking into Brighton station at seven minutes past seven it felt as though the clock had turned back two years.
We’ve all been used to ‘staying at home’ these last two years and Tuesday morning’s commute suggested the majority of people were doing just that.
The message to passengers is ‘do not travel’ as the biggest rail strike in 30 years gets underway with members of the RMT union walking out in a dispute over pay and potentially thousands of job losses.
On Tuesday and Thursday there will be just 22 Southern trains heading to London Victoria from Brighton and 22 Thameslink trains to London Bridge. Apart from a shuttle service to Hove no other Southern or Thameslink trains will operate.
7:15am. I’m on board the first train out. It’s a Southern service heading to London Victoria. I wouldn’t say it was empty but it certainly wasn’t rammed and there were plenty of seats.
One passenger, secondary school teacher Louisa Bello, said “it’s a reduced service but it’s really quite empty so it’s probably better than usual.
“They’ve cut some stops out so actually my journey into Croydon is shorter. Coming home is going to be a little bit tricky because it’s a reduced service.
“I’m a secondary school teacher at a school in Croydon so I need to be in work but I do fully support the strikes. It’s exam seasons so they really need their teachers today.”
Harry Sadeghi said, “It is an inconvenience but it is what it is. I’m definitely in support of higher pay and more staff because most people in London are catching the train so they need to prioritise.”
At Gatwick, I get off the train and head back towards the coast.
As the 8:03am train pulled in, there must’ve been hundreds of passengers, suitcases in hand, hurriedly making their way out of the service and into the airport. There’s a tube strike in London today so I can imagine it’s not been easy for people trying to catch a flight.
Heading back to Brighton I overhear a group of people talking about the strikes.
“They haven’t given us much notice about this strike” said one man whilst another remarked about the fact the last train leaving Brighton later will be before six. It’s actually at 5:40pm.
Whilst Southern and Thameslink RMT members voted for action short of strike, meaning there are not walking out, Network Rail signallers are and so only a limited number of trains can run.
On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday just 60% of the timetable will be in operation.
The ability for people to work from home has undoubtably dented the impact of the strike but many people will still need to get to hospital appointments, school or college, to the airport, and so the next few days could prove to be particularly tricky to get around.