This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 03/07/2018.
Government ready to take over Southern Rail services if needed
There have been renewed calls for its parent company Govia Thameslink Railway to be stripped of its franchise.
The Government will be ready to temporarily renationalise Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services – which include Southern Rail and Thameslink trains through Croydon – if needed, according to the rail minister.
Jo Johnson told MPs a review is ongoing and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will have the full range of options available to him if GTR is found to have been “negligent”.
He added Mr Grayling is clear the Government would be ready to step in if required.
This approach has been implemented on the East Coast Mainline following the collapse of the Virgin-Stagecoach contract and has seen the Department for Transport temporarily bring routes back under its control.
MPs urged Mr Johnson to strip franchises from GTR amid timetable chaos, with the minister also accused of appearing “too relaxed”.
GTR is the parent company which operates Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services.
Replying to Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington Tom Brake’s calls to “sack” GTR, Mr Johnson said: “The Secretary of State has been clear he is leaving all options on the table should GTR be found to have been negligent.
“He is clear that the operator of last resort will be ready to step in should that turn out to be the case.
“But, of course, the department wants to follow all correct processes in this matter.”
Conservative former minister Nick Herbert said: “We are now into week seven of this Thameslink timetable shambles and there is no sign of the service getting better.
“Never mind electrification, frankly trains were more reliable 100 years ago in the age of steam.”
Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp said the timetable “fiasco” is the latest instalment in GTR’s “record of failure”.
He went on: “This company is incompetent, the time has come for them to lose the franchise and I urge the minister to act.”
Labour’s Joan Ryan (Enfield North) added: “On July 15 we get our third timetable in two months – this cannot be acceptable.
“The minister is a sight too relaxed for my liking about this matter.”
Mr Johnson said the Government is urgently working on improving GTR’s performance.
Conservative Maria Caulfield (Lewes) criticised the “disaster” of the timetable roll-out, saying: “I don’t seem to sense a sense of urgency from the minister about what a devastating impact this is having on my constituents.
“Three hours to travel 50 miles home last night and three out of the first seven trains cancelled this morning.
“It’s unacceptable, the franchise must go.”
Mr Johnson replied: “We are looking at this as an absolute matter of urgency within the department – it is our top priority to ensure the unacceptable levels of services come to an end and passengers get the standard of rail that they have every right to expect.
“The Secretary of State has been absolutely clear – all options are available to him should they be found to have been negligent with respect to their contractual obligations.”