Southern discomfort: Train operator only delivered 70 per cent of services on time

Oliver Gill
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Beleaguered Southern Rail Users Face More Misery As Five Day Strike Begins
Talks between Southern and the RMT union to avert strikes broke down over the weekend (Source: Getty)

The train operator at the centre of what is set to be the longest strike on the railways since the 1960s has seen the punctuality of its services plunge to just 70 per cent, new figures show.

During July, Southern's operator Govia Thameslink only delivered 70 per cent of services on time across its franchises according to Network Rail numbers. This compares to 83 per cent the year before.

On Southern mainline specifically, just 65.2 per cent of trains arrived on time last month.

Thousands of commuters saw their journeys disrupted yesterday as a five-day strike called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) hit Southern rail which serves London Bridge and Victoria. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the strike, saying: "It’s only going to cause more disruption and misery for passengers."

Read more: PM blasts RMT over Southern Rail strike "misery"

The decision by Southern to transfer control of doors to the driver – a concept familiar to millions of London Underground commuters – triggered the long-running dispute, which has seen staff-sickness levels soar. Controversially, only 393 guards were balloted on the strike action.

Yesterday, Southern said that the strike timetable was running well. “The RMT is causing yet more misery for our passengers, and we call on them to let this strike be the last,” Southern’s passenger services director Alex Foulds said.

Talks between Southern and the RMT – whose general secretary Mick Cash earns £137,344 according to the union’s latest annual return, a figure that puts his earnings on a par with the PM's – broke down over the weekend.

As the rail disruption continues, Govia is preparing to re-tender for the Midland rail franchise that it currently operates.

Read more: How firms can deal with disruption caused by the Southern Rail strike

The Department for Transport told City A.M. yesterday that Govia had not withdrawn or been removed from the shortlist of those tendering for the franchise, despite the current situation with Southern, and declined to comment whether it would be withdrawn in the future.

Govia is a joint venture between majority owner and FTSE 250 company Go-Ahead, and France’s largest private sector transport group, Keolis. It runs several other train operating companies across Britain including Thameslink, Southeastern and the Gatwick Express.

Read more: Business groups slam RMT's strike on Southern Rail

Meanwhile, the betting is that the five-day strike is highly unlikely to be called off. Paddy Power says the odds of the strike lasting for two days or more are 1/20, meaning that there is over 95 per cent chance of it continuing.

Passenger group Transport Focus still urged both sides to get back around the table. "Passengers need plenty of information about the strikes and what services will be running to allow them to plan their journeys during this uncertain time,” Transport Focus said.

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