Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled a package of measures aimed at improving the performance of the Southern rail network and restoring passenger confidence.
The new measures include a £20m fund and the appointment of one of Britain’s most experienced rail industry figures, Chris Gibb, to help get the service back "running as it should". London workers have had their commutes thrown into disarray this summer due to a series of cancellations and delays.
The rail network has also been dealing with an industrial dispute, which has led to a number of separate industrial actions - causing further disruption to services.
Gibb will lead a new project board, working with the train operator, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail, to explore how to achieve a rapid improvement to services for the public, with a plan to be delivered in the autumn. The board will oversee the £20m fund and closer working between Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail to improve performance for Southern customers.
The £20m fund will tackle problems on the line placing more rapid response teams on the franchise, accelerating the replacement of worn track, and hiring extra staff at key stations including East Croydon and Gatwick to make sure trains get away on time.
The DfT said: "The package of measures follows unacceptable disruption for passengers in recent months, with many of the current issues caused by ongoing industrial action by the RMT as well as unofficial disruption and guards going off sick."
The government said it is also clear that Southern rail operator GTR and Network Rail must work together to resolve issues earlier and ensure a better service for passengers. The RMT union has called a strike for September citing the "arrogance and inaction" of GTR.
Grayling said: “I want the Southern network to be run by a team of people who work together to make sure passengers get decent journeys and that problems are dealt with quickly. This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks and make things work better for the public.
“We also need to get to grips with things that go wrong on this part of the network. That is why we are putting in place a £20m scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network.”
Gibb said: "Committed railway people across the industry work hard round the clock to provide the best possible service to a growing number of passengers, during a time of much needed major investment. I will bring together the energy of these people to find ways to improve the delivery of this service in the short and medium term."
GTR boss Charles Horton said he welcomed "the benefits this £20m improvement package will bring for passengers".
"Network Rail and Southern will continue to work closely together to ensure this investment delivers real, tangible benefits for our passengers and the new project board will ensure the programme is effectively delivered," Horton added.
"This investment complements our existing programme of improvements which is bringing in new trains and changing working practices to improve customer service.”
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