Reports Government to strip operator of Southern services are ‘speculation’

Southern train SUS-160219-155325001
Southern train SUS-160219-155325001

Reports from an industry publication suggesting the Government is preparing options to strip Govia Thameslink Railway of Southern services have been labelled ‘speculation’.

Rail Business Intelligence has published claims that the rail operator is in default of its contract, with performance below the targets set in the remedial plan agreed by the Department for Transport.

It suggests a number of options are being prepared including splitting off the Southern service group to a ‘managed exit’ where the Government would take direct control of the entire Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise until a new contract could be let.

RBI claims that the last option has been worked up to the point where it has its own codename and a potential interim managing director has been identified.

But the Department for Transport said that there were ‘no plans to strip GTR of the franchise’ and labelled reports ‘speculation’.

Passengers using Southern services have been subjected to more than a year of misery due to a combination of staff shortages, industrial action, mismanagement, Network Rail track issues and upgrades, and operational incidents

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “Instead of dragging this farce out any longer the Government should now do the decent thing, pull the plug on the GTR contract, take the lines under public control and draw a line under this shambles that shames Britain’s railways.

“As part of that process they should get round the table with the union and reach a genuine and lasting negotiated settlement to the on-going guards safety dispute.

“RBI are the respected voice of the industry when it comes to insider knowledge and their claims today make sense to anyone who has tracked the Southern/GTR fiasco.

“Chris Grayling should stop pussy-footing about, get his act together and get Southern/GTR off the tracks before more damage is done.”

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