Rebuild trust or it’s game over

Creating distance from any problem can be a valuable way to gain perspective and bring clarity. When we’re too close to every detail, we can become overly focused with the weeds and fail to appreciate the surrounding forest. 

I went on maternity leave in May 2022, so have been away for nearly 14 months. When I left, arguments on the railway were all about fares reform, union relations, passenger satisfaction - and the forthcoming shift to Great British Railways (to name but a few). 

More than a year later, and it feels like I’m in Groundhog Day. Nothing has changed. We’re still arguing about the same issues, just with a diminished spirit and less sense of optimism. Sadly, I’m not surprised. 

On my return, I asked Twitter folk to summarise the past year on the railway for me. Here’s a flavour of the response: 

“Frustration at the self-destruct button some seem to have pressed.”

“Needlessly exhausting.”

“Plenty of opportunity, less delivery.” 

“Devastating if you go by mess room morale.” 

“Dire. Staff morale and public confidence in the system is really low.” 

“Frustrating, demoralising and certainly not a pleasant place to be.” 

And simply: “Stasis.” 

Morale is at an all-time low - and that’s dangerous. The railway has always been sharply defined by its people, and by their passion and enthusiasm. But if, as an industry, we lose their enthusiastic support, nothing else that we must achieve will be possible. 

The thorny debate over ticket office closures is the latest own goal. This enormous decision, for which there was only a couple of weeks’ consultation time, has fuelled a huge backlash from rail workers, unions and the general public, further eroding already wafer-thin passenger trust in the railway. 

Read this article in full in RAIL issue 988

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