Strikes won’t fix the Southern rail crisis. Here are some fresh ideas for the unions | David Boyle
The government and franchise owners must be held to account for the misery being inflicted on passengers – they won’t be if unions fall into the strike trap
Back in the 1970s, Sir Charles Goodhart, then at the Bank of England, came up with the law which now bears his name, and which tends to be paraphrased: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” So, for instance, when rail company employees put their efforts into meeting a target – say, season ticket sales – they might just forget about their central purpose, to provide a good train service.
Goodhart’s law sheds light on the unfolding disaster that is Southern rail. Southern is a small part of the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) mega-franchise, and is 60% owned by the transport company Go-Ahead, and contracted so tightly by the Department of Transport that Southern rail itself has little room for innovation or imagination – precisely the reverse of what rail privatisation was supposed to deliver. In fact, it may just be a textbook case of Goodhart’s law. GTR’s contract ties Southern rail so completely into the will of the Department of Transport that it keeps just 3% of the takings. The only way of making a profit is to remove human employees from platforms (job half done) and from trains (job stalled).
Source: Guardian Transport
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