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If technology and people power can solve the Southern Rail strike - what will it do for Finance?

Yesterday I had to take four buses to get to work in defiance of the Train unions. This gave me the time to think about how we can resolve the impasse between the train company and the unions that is causing so much pain to hundreds of thousands of people.

The conclusion I came to is to use technology to break the monopoly of the unions. How is this possible you say? Driverless trains are still some way away; instead I believe that the solution is an uber style app combined with a pool of volunteer train drivers. 

During the general strike of 1926 my grandfather, an office worker, was trained to drive buses and did so. 

If the train company (GTR) starts to train up a large selection of passenger volunteers they could ask them to drive a particular train in return for a free season ticket. We could call them the Auxilary Drivers' Service.

The volunteers could then be organised for the trains they need to drive by an Uber style app. 

This unlimited supply of new train drivers would remove the monopoly negotiating position of the unions and force them to the table to negotiate properly. 

Whether the volunteers are ever needed would be determined by the unions. But I am sure that I would not be alone amongst the travelling public in being willing to give up a couple of days holiday in return for a reliable and perhaps even free commute. 

I am sure that the company and government (who receive the train fares and pay the company to run (or in Southern's case not run) the trains) would more than recover the cost of training from the fares paid. Today the papers tell us that it has already cost us, the taxpayer, £50 million.

Technology is the key differentiator that would allow the managing of the Auxilary Drivers' Service, through offering the ability to organise effectively this large army of volunteers. 

Perhaps commuting would never be the same again. Imagine discovering that your driver today is a Director of The Bank of England. Not since 1926 would anyone have experienced that!

How is this relevant to FinTech? I believe that such a concept taken beyond solving the immediate train strike could revolutionise the work place environment. People like dealing with people, but they are expensive to employ. Could we combine voluntary service in return for other benefits? Might bank customers offer a couple of hours of their time to provide customer face time in branch in return for higher savings rates or commission free share trading? There are many possibilities, that is what makes FinTech so exciting!



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