Pressure is building on the government to seize control over Southern Rail

Mark Sands
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Southern Train Drivers Strike For A Third Day
Southern Rail is operated by parent group Govia Thameslink Railway. (Source: Getty)

Pressure is building on the operator behind the controversial Southern Rail service after Downing Street yesterday warned of the need for improvement.

Reports emerged earlier this week claiming the Department for Transport was considering stripping the struggling service from Govia Thameslink Railway.

Last year GTR filed a “force majeure” claim with ministers, blaming poor service on strike action, and is currently challenging the DfT’s initial assessment.

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Pressed on whether ministers would seize control of Southern Rail yesterday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said “there are no plans to strip GTR of the franchise”, while also noting that the current service “is not good enough”.

They added: “The performances of all of our franchises are kept constant review, and those who perform poorly will face potential penalties.”

The situation has led the chair of parliament’s transport committee to hit out over the government's “incomprehensible” failure to act.

Speaking to City A.M., Louise Ellman said: “It seems to be an ongoing process without an end date. It's an absolutely disastrous situation.”

“[GTR] are not running this properly and there is no sign they're going to be able to. I find it incomprehensible that the government has still not acted.”

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A DfT spokesman declined to comment on when the ongoing investigation of GTR’s force majeure claims, will close, stating: “We are not going to be giving a running commentary.”

Croydon South MP Chris Philp, who this week saw his bid to limit transport strikes rejected by MPs, branded the service “appalling”.

“Because of their incompetence, repeated failures and the constant inability to provide a decent service I would definitely welcome any move from the government to remove the franchise,” Philp said.

“GTR is too big and it has shown that it cannot cope with the additional stress of running Southern rail.”

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