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GTR providing ‘worst performance on the network’

Govia Thameslink Railway has been panned by the National Audit Office (NAO) after a review found it offered the “worst performance on the network” and had not delivered value for money.

The struggling franchise, which represents Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern services, as well as Gatwick Express, has been under heavy pressure recently, with figures showing that it had been forced to pay out almost £15m in passenger compensation in 2016-17.

Today’s report finds that since GTR began operating the franchise in July 2015, around 7.7% of all planned services have been cancelled or delayed for more than 30 minutes.

It also found that the DfT could have avoided disruption, but instead made poor decisions as to the management of driver-only operation complaints on services and was not fully aware of the effects industrial action could have on passengers before awarding the contract.

This contributed to only around 62% of services arriving within 5 minutes of their arrival time during a period of strike action in November and December 2016.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, commented: “Over the last three years long-suffering passengers on the Thameslink franchise have experienced the worst performance on the rail network.

“Some of the problems could have been avoided if the department had taken more care to consider passengers in its design of the franchise.”

Network Rail also criticised

There was further criticism for Network Rail (NR), which copped blame for delays because of its management of the rail network, and a lack of understanding of the state of the infrastructure when the franchise began.

Between July 2015 and March 2017, the NAO says 13% of all cancellations and delays to services of over 30 minutes were due to failures of track and other Network Rail assets such as signalling systems.

Much of the criticism is about the planning which was undertaken before the GTR franchise began, specifically the lack of staff available across Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern.

The DfT has considered its options for terminating the franchise, but decided to continue its contract, although it did come to an agreement with the operator to l fund a £13.4m spending programme for missing its targets to date.

A spokesperson for the department said: “Clearly the disruption passengers have experienced is unacceptable but the NAO recognises that service has improved over the last 12 months.

“The government has taken a number of steps to ensure this improvement, including the provision of an additional £300m to improve reliability on the Brighton Mainline. We expect service improvements to continue as the Thameslink Programme is completed.”

The £7bn Thameslink Programme was also the subject of an NAO review late last year, with the watchdog concluding that the rest of the network was not prepared to deal with future developments in the project, likely causing delays in future.

Following today’s criticism, Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said that the franchise operators were making “good progress” in upgrades that will improve reliability and boost capacity.

“Passengers will increasingly see the benefits of this modernisation project in terms of reliability, punctuality and new journey options, delivered in conjunction with the government’s Thameslink Programme,” he explained. “We are glad that the NAO has recognised these passenger benefits and that they forecast Thameslink has a realistic chance of delivering value for money.

“Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) is the UK’s largest franchise – carrying almost a million passengers a day – and the report identifies numerous root causes for the challenges it has faced since its formation in 2014. These difficulties have sometimes been greater than expected and we regret the disruption caused to our passengers.

“It is only right that a franchise of TSGN’s unprecedented scale and ambition receives scrutiny, and I am more confident than ever that its trailblazing achievements will be felt by rail travellers for generations to come.”

Horton was criticised in the middle of last year, when it was revealed that he received a nearly £500,000 salary in 2016 despite the poor performance of services.

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Abz&Rail   10/01/2018 at 17:02

TSGH? I think you mean TSGN.

Mmlred   11/01/2018 at 14:50

You know you've hit the skids when The Darkness are writing songs about your subpar service.

Andrew JG   11/01/2018 at 19:41

Oh yes that’s right Mmlred. The Darkness did do a song about Southern Trains. Very good rock song. Very funny aswell.

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