'Our service levels haven't been good enough' admits chief behind Southern Rail as owners receive £13.4million government fine
PUBLISHED: 09:40 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:41 13 July 2017
The fine was issued on Wednesday
The company behind strike-hit Southern Rail has been handed a £13.4million fine over the poor quality of its services, with the CEO admitting “service levels haven’t been good enough”.
Govia Thameslink Railway had applied for a ‘force majeure’ to the government, to pin ongoing strike action from the RMT and Aslef unions as the reason for a drop in the quality of service.
In law, a force majeure is when a claimant will cite unforeseeable circumstances as the reason for not fulfilling a contract.
But in a letter to the company’s CEO, Charles Horton, transport Chris Grayling said industrial action: “does not fully explain the poor service that passengers received,” between September 2015 to September 2016.
Southern currently provides Metro services in and around Beckenham as well as running trains from Ashford International and Tonbridge, has been dealing with strike action over the possible introduction of driver-only trains for more than a year.
Mr Grayling said “passengers who depend on Southern have been badly let down” but accepted in his letter: “Performance on Southern has improved dramatically since Christmas, as the disruption from union activity has decreased. But that performance is still not good enough.”
The MP explained where he expected the multi-million-pound package to be spent, with £7million to be put into a Department for Transport fund for “projects and improvements that will directly benefit passengers”, £4million to employ 50 on-board supervisors over the next two years and the remaining £2.4million on improvements to Southern’s performance.
Mr Horton said: “We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last twelve years.
“This has meant we have been running services for more and more passengers while also allowing stations to be rebuilt, platforms extended, track and signalling replaced and new trains and technology introduced too.”
“The impact on the network of such extensive work was underestimated, but as the recently-published Gibb Report makes clear the most significant factor affecting Southern’s service levels has been industrial action caused by the trade unions.
“GTR looks forward to continuing to roll out one of the biggest modernisation programmes the railway has seen and which will transform four networks and improve capacity. The programme has necessitated a modernisation of infrastructure, trains, technology and working practices. Results are now starting to show and performance has improved consistently for six months.