Southern Rail Hell — The Commuter’s Survival Guide

It’s been a while since I’ve written about commuting but living in Brighton it’s hard not to be aware of the difficulties caused by the Southern Rail strikes. It’s meant there have been huge train delays and numerous cancellations, resulting in people being unable to get to work on time, get home at a reasonable hour, or generally get to-and-from London without it being a nightmare. Several of my friends commute from Brighton to London and unfortunately for them, it means travelling on this very line.

Agree with Work

My friend recently told me that some London employers have stopped taking on recruits from Brighton because of the difficulties they’ve had with their commuting staff getting into work. Whilst it’s certainly not the employees’ fault, I can see why the employers have taken this stance. It does makes the job market tougher though, but who would really want to commute right now? Even digital businesses have been affected; marketing agencies can have employees conference call in, but if you’re on a busy train, can’t get signal or are stuffed into a rowdy corner of the station’s coffee shop, even that isn’t an option.

Discuss the situation with your boss and see if you can work from home on strike days. If you have a decent computer, internet and are contactable by phone, you should have all you need to carry out your usual work. Agreeing the procedure considering the circumstances will ensure everyone knows what’s happening and it’ll take the stress out of it for you.

Alternative Travel

If your boss can’t/won’t allow you to work from home, it might be time to consider driving in, at least on the days when there are strikes and you must be in. No one likes the idea of having to drive to London but right now it might even be a better option. It could save you time in comparison to arriving at the station and then waiting for another train after yours has been cancelled. If you’re able to alternate the drive with friends from work, it’ll make it even more bearable.

If the above isn’t an option, you could take the train for part of the journey and cycle the rest. Now might be a good time to invest in an electric bike too — much speedier than a non-pedal assist bike and, with break-assist functionality, safer to ride in the city. They make hills easier to climb and with less work required by you, you’re not in dire need of a shower by the time you get to the office.

Compensation

Southern, low-and-behold, is now urging 2016 ticket holders to apply for compensation on the travel disruption and financial loss suffered. According to The Standard, ‘The Department for Transport announced in December that more than 84,000 passengers would be refunded the equivalent of a month’s travel to compensate them for the huge disruption they experienced in 2016.’ You’re eligible for this if you’ve bought a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual ticket for at least 12 weeks within April 24th — December 31st 2016. It feels somewhat overdue but at least it’s comforting to know you could be recompensed.

De-stress

Stress is certainly one of the side effects of the strikes. There’s nothing worse than needing to be somewhere by a certain time and finding out you won’t be able to make it, or worse, not knowing whether you’ll be able to. From the journeys I’ve made recently, I’ve noticed the exasperated mood in the station. Everyone is frantically checking the departures board, ringing their boss or checking their watches.

What can you do other than wait? Enter HEADSPACE, the highly rated and brilliant meditation and mindfulness app. It’s becoming increasingly popular and I for one am a fan. It has a pack specifically for stress and anxiety with 10, 15 and 20 minute sessions which are perfect for the commute. For access to all packs there’s a subscription free but their ‘Take 10’ pack is free and it does what it says on the tin: take 10 minutes out of your day to mediate/be mindful. Travelling can be stressful without strikes, let alone with them, so ensuring that they aren’t affecting you personally is significantly important.