It seems all is not well, with Her Majestys government stripping Govia of the operating rights of Southeastern Railway.
For an action like this to be taken – either a train operator is close or near bankrupt, or there is serious fiscal mismanagement has been caught. And it seems money is the route of evil at this time.
The government will take over running services on Southeastern from 17 October 2021, after a serious breach of the franchise agreement’s “good faith” obligation in relation to financial matters was identified.
An investigation conducted by the Department for Transport has identified evidence that since October 2014 LSER (London South Eastern Railway) has not declared over £25 million of historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned.
To date £25 million has been recovered and further investigations are being conducted by the owning group into all related historic contract issues with LSER. Following these investigations, the government will consider further options for enforcement action, including statutory financial penalties under the Railways Act 1993.
LSER is currently operated by Govia – a joint venture between Go-Ahead Group and Kelios (65%/35% respectively). The train company operates services to Kent, Metro services in London and the South East out of London Charrings Cross, Victoria, Blackfriars and Cannon Street, as well as the High-Speed 1 domestic routes out of St Pancras.
The government sees this as a significant breach of the good faith obligation within the franchise agreement and will not be extending a further contract to LSER, with a loss of trust to the passenger.
From the 17th of October, Southeastern’s services will be transferred to “The Operator of Last Resort”, who will manage the day to day services.
In terms of rail life, passengers will find there will be no changes to fares, tickets or services.
Southeastern has published a full FAQ at https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/about-us/important-announcement
Currently, the Operator of Last Resort operates services on London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and Northern.
Currently, none. There will be no impact upon the frontline staff of LSER, who have been at the frontline of delivering services throughout the Covid pandemic.
The decision is no reflection on their professionalism and dedication and will not affect jobs, rather, it’s the management.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said:
There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that LSER have breached the trust that is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways. When trust is broken, we will act decisively.
The decision to take control of services makes unequivocally clear that we will not accept anything less from the private sector than a total commitment to their passengers and absolute transparency with taxpayer support.
Under the new operator, we will prioritise the punctual, reliable services passengers deserve, rebuild trust in this network, and the delivery of the reforms set out in our Plan for Rail – to build a modern railway that meets the needs of a nation.
Go-Ahead Group’s Chairman, Clare Hollingsworth, said:
“It has always been this Group’s intention to provide the best possible public transport, and to work in partnership with the Government and related agencies. We recognise that mistakes have been made and we sincerely apologise to the DfT. We are working constructively with the DfT towards a settlement of this matter.”
Plenty of work to do still
There is plenty of work to be done in the Southeastern network, with
- completing the rollout of the Class 707 trains onto Metro routes to provide more spacious, comfortable journeys
- investing in passenger improvements on the existing fleet of trains
- improved security across the network
For the Operator of Last Resort – the work of the railway will go on. For Govia, this will reduce their operation to one franchise – one of the largest of them all – the Govia Thameslink Railway (Consisting of Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express, Great Northern).
I suspect this won’t be the end of the investigation – by a long shot.
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