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Govia Thameslink keeps franchise but must pay out £15m over timetable chaos

Govia Thameslink keeps franchise but must pay out £15m over timetable chaos

Govia Thameslink Railway will hold on to Britain’s biggest rail franchise but must spend £15m on passenger improvements after its “unacceptable performance” during the botched timetabling roll-out in May. GTR will make no profit from the franchise in this financial year, and future profits will be capped until September 2021 when the franchise expires, the…

Govia Thameslink Railway will hold on to Britain’s biggest rail franchise but must spend £15m on passenger improvements after its “unacceptable performance” during the botched timetabling roll-out in May.

GTR will make no profit from the franchise in this financial year, and future profits will be capped until September 2021 when the franchise expires, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

By striking a deal with GTR, the DfT has ignored calls to remove the franchise after the chaotic introduction of new timetables on 20 May, which led to cancellations and disruptions of of thousands of train services.

In a statement on Tuesday, the department said “a termination of the franchise would cause further and undue disruption for passengers and is not an appropriate course of action”.

GTR, which includes Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express, will contribute £15m towards “tangible improvements for passengers”, on top of the £15m the operator has spent on compensation for passengers since the May timetable disruption.

The DfT said GTR had agreed to work with the rail user groups representing Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern passengers, who will determine what improvements the new package will fund.

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The deal comes after a scathing report by MPs on the transport select committee, who are demanding rail fares should be frozen for those passengers who were most affected by the disruption. On the first working day of the new timetable there were 423 cancellations.

The transport department said it would continue to monitor GTR’s performance closely, particularly during the timetable changes due to be introduced next week. “These measures do not make GTR immune from further sanctions in the event of any subsequent failure to perform,” the department added.

The GTR chief executive, Charles Horton, quit over the timetable chaos, and Network Rail executives forfeited annual bonuses for their role in the fiasco.

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