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GTR to pay out £13.4m for staff and service improvements on Southern

The DfT has today reached an agreement with GTR to make the company fund a £13.4m package to improve the performance of Southern trains for passengers.

It follows a ruling at the end of June that gave transport secretary Chris Grayling two weeks to come to a decision over taking action to improve Southern, after a campaigning group took their grievances with the operator to the High Court.

This also came after Network Rail non-executive director Chris Gibb published his much-anticipated report on Southern, which concluded that issues with the unions were the primary reason behind the crisis hitting the franchise.

Southern passengers have seen months of delayed and cancelled services as the operator experienced industrial action from two large rail and transport unions – Aslef and the RMT.

DfT has also outlined exactly how the £13.4m ‘compensation payment’ will be distributed by GTR. A total of £7m will be put into a fund to allocate to projects and improvements that will directly benefit passengers, while a further £4m will pay for on-board supervisors over the next year to improve access to staff for passengers on trains.

The remaining £2.4m will then be used on performance improvements – GTR is also now required to submit a remedial plan under the franchise agreement.

In a letter to GTR CEO Charles Horton, Grayling explained his decision, saying that passengers who depend on Southern had been badly let down.

“The union industrial action that has so often disrupted services is totally unjustified and must stop now,” he said. “But GTR must also do better in providing services to its passengers. When trains are cancelled unnecessarily it can cause huge disruption. And when trains are shorter than they ought to be, it can leave already busy services unbearably overcrowded.”

And though performance on the line had improved since Christmas, Grayling argued that improvement had still “not been good enough”.

GTR: Result a ‘fair outcome’

The TOC welcomed the ruling, saying it perceived it as a “fair outcome which draws a line under an issue that has been hanging over the franchise for many months”.

“We are pleased that this issue has been concluded, and accept and are sorry that our service levels haven’t been good enough for passengers,” said Horton. “We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last 12 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.”

RMT: Decision from DfT a ‘whitewash’

In contrast, rail union the RMT was unhappy with the decision, stating that it was a “whitewash,” by the government and “hardly a surprise when they've been up to their necks in this fiasco right from day one”.

“This pathetic response to the abject failure by Southern/GTR to deliver on their contract doesn't even stack up to a slap on the wrist. No wonder the company are gloating. Chris Grayling has let them off the hook big style,” said the union’s general secretary, Mick Cash.

“Grayling has propped up the basket case Southern Rail operation from the off and is clearly happy to put the profits of overseas rail companies before the safety, quality and accessibility of services for the British people.”

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Disbelief   13/07/2017 at 14:53

What a surprise, a total cop-out! Not even a financial fine, just a package of "passenger benefits". GTR were only following Dft Instructions but they greedily overbid fully knowing the game plan. Sadly they had no idea on how to implement "The Plan" - and still don't!! This sort of inept amateurish "Management" by a totally incapable Minister and Team at Dft discredits Franchising completely.

Huguenot   14/07/2017 at 12:10

Well I'm all for fines being reinvested in services rather than being pocketed by the Treasury, but it seems to be saying that the strikes and overtime bans "are nothing to do with us, guv". Southern has to take responsibility for its own industrial relations. I still don't understand why the DfT won't split off Southern from Thameslink and Gatwick Express and give these last two to different operators.

Grandtully   14/07/2017 at 14:06

Now we have consultation on the Great Northern timetable that will see services from Peterborough to Horsham and Cambridge to Brighton added to the Thameslink network. That's only 17 months away and that does beg the question, will they cope if they can't cope now?

GW   15/07/2017 at 18:29

Up go the parking charges AGAIN.

Andrew Gwilt   16/07/2017 at 09:37

Wish that GTR "Govia Thameslink Railway" didn't merge Southern with Thameslink Great Northern franchise. Then Southern wouldn't have any problems. The TSGN franchise is really going down hill. With more strikes happening every year that is still doom & gloom for the passengers. Southern should of been kept as they are and allow other rail operator (i.e: Abellio, Trenitalia, etc) to take over the Southern franchise and to introduce more extra trains and it will be less-hassle for people who use Southern without any disruptions.

Gabriel Oaks   17/07/2017 at 08:42

Southern were required by the DfT to introduce DCO working in May 2016 as part of its management contract. If the 'franchise' had been awarded to somebody else this industrial relations issue would have still existed.

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