DUNCAN BARKES The only thing to count on is being late...

At the start of this year I wrote about increased rail fares, making several points about how the increases never seem to be pumped back into the system.

I moaned that many of us, especially if you commute to London, have no choice but to pay them.

My column attracted the attention of Chris Burchell, managing director of Southern Railway, who wrote to the letters page of this paper. Chris went into bat in order to justify the increases.

He also claimed some of the revenue from increased fares does go towards improving the service.

Once again, I have to underline that I have no gripe with the staff of Southern Railway; I have always found them to be professional, helpful and cheerful.

But the actual rail service offered by Southern leaves a great deal to be desired.

My train seldom arrives at Victoria on time, usually with blame apportioned to either signals or points.

Such regular problems should not occur and I can only presume such frequent incidents are down to old or faulty equipment. So why is the kit not replaced?

I made a note over six days of the running time of my regular morning train. It arrived on time (at 7.28am) at Chichester on every day of my experiment, yet never reached its London destination by the scheduled time of 9.01am.

The evidence speaks for itself: a whopping one hour and eight minutes worth of delays across the six days.

Some people on this service pay in excess of £4,000 a year for a season ticket. That’s a heck of a lot of money for frequently being made late for work.

Commuters and train users in this country are treated like cattle and are no more than cash cows to many of the rail service operators.

Sorry, Mr Burchell, but if the profits from increased fares are being invested in improving the service then I’m a banana.

** Please sign up – it could save a life

Last month there was a horrendous accident on the main road outside a Chichester primary school.

A brave mum threw herself in front of skip lorry to save her daughter.

There has not been a lollipop lady on this difficult road for the past couple of years and the general consensus is it was an accident waiting to happen.

And it could happen again. Please, if you live, work or study in West Sussex and have a valid West Sussex postcode, sign the petition for a safe crossing by Rumboldswhyke School.

If you live outside West Sussex but work or study in the county, please use the work/study address and postcode instead of your home address.

Visit the e-petition page on West Sussex County Council’s website: epetition.westsussex.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/petition/1776#div_sigs

It won’t take more than a moment of your time and it really could save a life.