We did our best for you. Travelling to London by train, in itself a thankless task these days, we finally managed to track down Rail Minister Claire Perry to answers our questions about the dispute that is crippling the south’s network.

After days of attempting to get straight answers we cannot say Ms Perry didn’t finally give them to us. It is unlikely fed-up commuters travelling along the coast to Brighton and up to the capital will thank her for her forthrightness.

Ms Perry is clear. The rail unions are entirely to blame for the misery that is wrecking family life and placing undue stress on commuters.

They have embarked on industrial action which is indefensible. She goes on to praise the bosses of Southern and insist the government can do very little to intervene.

While many will accept that the union has been belligerent and unbending from the start and that the levels of sickness among guards is a clear form of industrial action that does not get her or her department off the hook. Nor does it justify her praise for a company many now think should lose its franchise.

The Government’s approach here has been to sit back and let the two sides fight it out while the commuter pays a very high price.

Only very recently has it even bothered to indicate any sympathy for those caught in the middle. What it wants is for the company to win the fight and is prepared to bankroll it through a cost-only contract which means the tax payer picks up any losses caused by disruption.

This is a shabby story in which all players share the shame. Ms Perry’s attempt to dump the blame solely on the unions simply adds another depressing episode.