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GTR could be broken up by DfT to combat repeated strike action

The Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise could be broken up in 2021 when its contract comes up for renewal, the government has said today.

The move may help to reduce strike action across Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) networks, with Southern specifically causing multiple problems.

Disputes between the network and the rail unions ASLEF and the RMT over driver-only operated (DOO) trains and pay have led to increasing industrial action.

A DfT spokesman said: “In advance of the expiry of a franchise contract, the department considers the size and scale to ensure new train operations best meet passenger needs.

“We are actively looking at the shape and size of the next Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise on expiry of the existing contract in 2021.”

GTR is run by Govia, a joint-venture between Go-Ahead Group and France’s Keolis which also operated the London Midland franchise until recently.

Previously, the franchise has also come under scrutiny for its use of an unusual management contract where fare income does not go to GTR.

The DfT receives revenue from ticket sales and takes on the revenue risk, with the company operating the service in exchange for a management fee, thought to be in the region of £1bn.

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Jimbo   07/11/2017 at 00:10

So the DfT doesn't expect the industrial action to be resolved before 2021? That is a bit pessimistic. Besides, what is to stop the unions just spreading their strikes across all the new companies? The RMT in particular seem minded to strike with very little provocation. This seems like a rather odd announcement.

Andrew Gwilt   07/11/2017 at 00:21

Farewell Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and RIP Thameslink Southern Great Northern (TSGN). It’s best to keep all 4 train operators separate but to keep on maintaining their trains and services across the Southeast. Plus to order more new trains to replace the older stocks such as Southern’s Class 455’s and Class 313’s to be replaced by new trains. And Great Northern ordering Class 717’s to replace the Class 313’s on the Moorgate and Hertford Loop line services.

Andrew Gwilt   07/11/2017 at 02:28

Great Northern also are using some of the Class 700's on London King's Cross-Cambridge, Cambridge North and Peterborough services whilst the Class 387's are operating on London King's Cross-Peterborough, Cambridge North, Cambridge, King's Linn, Ely and peak times between London King's Cross-Letchworth Garden City.

David   07/11/2017 at 09:22

The whole point of the TSGN franchise was that Southern is going to be split back out after 2020. Total non-story.

Huguenot   07/11/2017 at 09:58

David -- I'm not sure that's true. Originally, TSGN was seen as one super-franchise. But it clearly hasn't worked, and not merely because of the industrial action, either. Gatwick Express should return to being a premium service, separate from Southern, albeit some of its peak hour trains are extended to/from Brighton. The DfT wanted to amalgamate Thameslink and Great Northern so that only one TOC ran trains through the Thameslink central core, which probably makes sense. The thing is that Thameslink has been driver-only operated since 1983. Although there was a long dispute with ASLEF at the time with the Class 317s sitting in sidings for months until it was resolved, the principle of DOO then became established for suburban EMUs with no outstanding safety issues. So neither ASLEF nor the RMT had a leg to stand on in their dispute with Southern.

John Grant   07/11/2017 at 12:04

Splitting off the fast GN services into KGX might make sense when the semi-fast and slow ones go through the Thameslink core. They could even merge them with the LST route, like the old WAGN franchise (which had drinks trolleys; maybe they'd bring those back too?)

Paul Woods   07/11/2017 at 12:56

It is naïve to expect this will resolve the dispute. The die is cast and sympathetic action will result just as much as before. There is also no guarantee that the Aslef recommendation will be accepted by its membership.

Henry Law   07/11/2017 at 15:43

As much to the point is to do something to put an end to the use of trains suitable for a twenty minute journey on routes where the long suffering passengers can be stuck in them for over an hour. The new 700 class are even worse than the dreadful 319 class they replaced, which were the replacement for the very comfortable CIG units which were on the Brighton to London Bridge service before Thameslink.

Thames Valley Traveller   07/11/2017 at 15:57

The continued strikes over DOO trains will lead to automation - automatic trains and no driver let alone a guard, the technology is there, lets get rid of drivers and guards. The trains are a public service, and any RMT/Aslef who go on strike should be instantly dismissed. It would be no different with nationalisation or under a labour Government. Passengers pay high rates to travel, they do not expect a seat but they do, as part of the contract between ticket holder and ticket issuer expect to get to where they need promptly with highwaymen/Unions stopping that journey.

Mark Hare   07/11/2017 at 16:54

@Thames Valley Traveller - if you are happy to travel on a train with no driver or guard on board then more fool you. Who's going to perform safety critical duties in the event of an emergency? Who is going to assist passengers? I don't believe the travelling public want automated trains and I would be very surprised to see that happen on main line routes in my lifetime. So 'the trains are a public service, and any RMT/Aslef who go on strike should be instantly dismissed'? No doubt you would advocate the sacking of doctors, firefighters and anyone else who have recently been on strike in any industry which you consider a 'public service' I'm no fan of Mick Cash and I'm not condoning industrial action especially the current RMT dispute but your response is an overreaction.

John Grant   07/11/2017 at 17:35

@Mark Hare: There's more and more technology (such as AWS) being installed to stop fallible human drivers doing the wrong thing, so personally I'd be more inclined to trust the technology; see for instance Already on driver-only trains there's no-one to assist passengers. The driver's job can and should be automated but the guard's job can't. The DLR gets it right.

Andrew JG   08/11/2017 at 04:24

I have heard that GN are using couple Class 700’s for the remainder of 2017. Before the new timetables comes out next year and yes hopefully London Bridge should reopen in May next year that will allow the Class 700’s to serve London Bridge as the Thameslink Programme is finished and Thameslink to operate new services as part of the new timetable. Since most of the Class 700’s have replaced the Class 319’s to be cascaded up North and some for conversion to become Class 769 Bi-Mode “Flex”. Aswell 15 Class 377/5’s (plus 2 Class 377/1’s) were cascaded to Southeastern (with 8 Class 377/5’s transferred to Southeastern earlier this year). And recently the Class 700’s have replaced the 29 Class 387/1’s to operate on GN. And from next year will see the new Class 717’s once built will soon replace the 40 year old Class 313’s used on the Moorgate line and Hertford Loop line.

Jak Jaye   08/11/2017 at 09:51

Well said Mark Hare right on the button GTR couldn't run a bath let alone a railway! The new rolling stock is rancid,rock hard seats and useless bogies. Industrial action accounts for a tiny proportion of delays the biggest 'highwaymaen' are Net Work Rail their delays happen 24/7 they are the ones who should be held accountable and like Mark im not a Mick Cash fan but something is going on behind the scenes that we are never told. And as for the new London Bridge take a trip over its a freezing cold underground cave and easily deserves the title of Britain's crappiest station

Mark Hare   08/11/2017 at 14:25

John Grant - technology such as AWS? AWS has been around since the days of steam - it's hardly cutting edge. And 'on driver-only trains there's no-one to assist passengers'??? Maybe the driver would, perhaps? The DLR is a self-contained low-speed Light Railway. High speed trains sharing tracks with stopping services and freight trains is another matter entirely. If a DOO train catches fire for example, it's the driver that makes the emergency call, the driver who requests lines to be blocked and the driver who can conduct a controlled evacuation of the train. Most passengers I believe would prefer to travel in a train operated by a driver, if not purely for safety then at least for reassurance and assistance. As I said previously, I do not expect to see automated trains running at high speed on main lines in my lifetime, and I'm not approaching retirement age just yet.

Jerry Alderson   18/11/2017 at 19:28

I'm not saying that a relatively-short Metro is directly comparable with a higher-speed suburban or inter-city railway, but I've just come back from Copenhagen where I travelled on their modern GoA4 (i.e. no on-board staff at all) metro system. (I'd previously only been on the GoA4 Paris metro line 14.) It worked fantastically well. Very frequent. Very short dwell-times at stations. Very reliable. And very popular with those wishing to look out of the front or rear windows of the train. My ticket was checked about four times in 24 hours by on-board RPIs. It's worth pointing out that I didn't have any additional needs. I don't remember seeing any wheelchair users or unaided blind travellers, but plenty people carrying large items of luggage.

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