Damning report slams Southern Railway management for poor performance

From The Argus

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Trains are in such a bad state on the Southern network that the contract would normally be pulled at this stage, MPs have recognised.

In a damning report on rail services published today, the House of Commons Transport Committee said Govia Thameslink Railway had cancelled far too many trains and criticised the company for not supplying information quick enough.

The Government committee has been considering whether GTR is now in default of its contractual obligations and has slammed the network over its performance.

“The proportion of services cancelled on GTR’s network is now substantially in excess of the default level. In normal circumstances, this would be grounds for termination of the contract,” they said.

They added: “Should the company be in default, the Department for Transport (DfT) must take the opportunity to restructure or terminate the agreement and deliver services in a more effective way for passengers. “The Committee concludes that the DfT’s claim that “no other operator” could do a better job in the circumstances is no longer credible.”

It added that its scrutiny of Govia’s performance was made more difficult by lack of access to essential information.

Drawing on evidence from rail passengers, the report was published as Southern services were returning to normal after a three day strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) in a bitter dispute over the role of conductors.

A further 11 days of strikes are planned until early December.

Louise Ellman, who chairs the committee, said rail passengers were too often badly served.

She said: “The individual voices of customers suffering woeful service on Southern Railway, in particular, came through loud and clear during our inquiry.

“GTR, RMT and the Government are all culpable to some extent for the prolonged dispute, but passengers have borne the brunt.”

Charles Horton, chief executive of Govia, said while the company had not got “everything right in the past two years” it was making improvements.

He added: “Our passengers have already seen 400 new vehicles on our network in the past two years across the GTR franchise, extended smart card technology across our network and delivered nearly 250 of our obligations under our franchise agreement.

“While performance is still way below where we want it to be, it’s good that the constraints of the redevelopment of London Bridge have been acknowledged and, also, the fact that performance was beginning to improve before the start of the dispute with the RMT. ”

He added the company had co-operated fully with requests for information to back up its claim for special circumstances.

A DfT spokesman said cancelling GTR’s contract would not address the issues.

But Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “This report is an indictment of the failure of rail privatisation and the Government’s record on Southern railways which have resulted in daily chaos and misery for passengers.

“The report rightly argues that in any normal circumstances there would be grounds for GTR to have its contract terminated and RMT is calling again for this failed franchise to be taken into public ownership as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, new data showed only three in four Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) trains arrived on time between August 21 and September 17 this year, with almost one in 10 cancelled or arriving more than 30 minutes late, Network Rail figures show.

GTR runs four services: Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.

Jacqueline Starr, of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train companies, said: “Train companies are already giving customers better information, particularly when there is disruption, and developing smarter types of ticket that are simpler to buy and use, but we know that we have to do more for our passengers.

“It’s important to remember that we have a successful railway – Europe’s safest and fastest growing – with thousands more services and passenger numbers having doubled in the last 20 years.”

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