Southern trains set to roll back its trolley service as business lost to coffee shops and food outlets

The on-board trolley service is 'no longer our customers' preferred service', said a spokesman

Click to follow
The Independent Online

For the harassed commuter it was a lifeline. Having just managed to catch their train and find a seat or, more likely, a piece of floor to stand on, they could rely on the on-board trolley service for the cup of coffee and snack they just didn’t have time for earlier.

No more. One of the country’s busiest commuter train companies has announced it will be ending its trolley service with immediate effect.

And so on 26 July, the on-board trolleys on Southern trains, which runs services between London and places like Brighton, Eastbourne and Southampton, will take their final trip down the aisle.

A spokesman for the company said: “The popularity of station coffee shops and food outlets has steadily increased as we have invested in and developed our stations over the past few years with the majority of passengers opting to purchase food and drinks before they board their train.

“The number of customers who want to use the on-board trolley service tells us that this is no longer our customers’ preferred service and so our current on-board trolley service will end on 26 July.”

However, there was some disagreement among rail operators over the public’s attitude towards the trolley.

Virgin Trains’ West Coast currently only uses them in first class, but is planning to introduce them in standard class. And the East Coast rail franchise said it would continue with its trolleys in both first and standard class.

“It’s an important part of our service … that proves very popular with our passengers,” a spokesman for the East Coast franchise said.

He said the average East Coast journey was 300 miles and suggested people would be more likely to buy from trolleys on long journeys.

Asked whether the quality of the food – and travellers’ fears of being confronted with curly ham sandwiches and coffee from a bygone age – might be contributing to the trolley’s apparent unpopularity, the Virgin East Coast spokesman said quality was an issue.

“We try and replicate the quality of food that people have come to expect,” he said, pointing to the Costa coffee and Yorkshire Tea served on its trains.

Southern’s trolley service will end as the company becomes part of the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which will also include Gatwick Express, Great Northern and Thameslink.

It will mean the loss of 70 jobs, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said, adding that staff had been given just a few days’ notice.

It said Southern and catering firm Rail Gourmet were treating the workers “like dirt”.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “This disgraceful move is an attack on both our low-paid members and the services that they provide to the travelling public and we are calling for it to be halted immediately before the staff are thrown out of their jobs.”