Grayling says strikes don't fully explain Southern rail's woes as mayor says £13.4m fine is 'no consolation' for commuters

 
Rebecca Smith
Southern rail has borne significant disruption over the past year
Southern rail has borne significant disruption over the past year (Source: Getty)

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has acknowledged that the long-running industrial action on Southern rail "does not fully explain" the poor service that passengers on the network have received.

In a letter to Charles Horton, the boss of Southern rail's parent firm Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Grayling set out a £13.4m fine for the firm to fund improvements on Southern rail. He said:

Read more: Southern rail fined £13.4m by government after poor performance

Although the recent Gibb report found the primary cause of disruption was industrial action, which started in April 2016, my officials have determined that this does not fully explain the poor performance that passengers received.

An independent report by rail veteran Chris Gibb into Southern rail troubles was published last month, flagging a variety of causes for the train operator's headaches such as industrial action and poor infrastructure, and recommendations for addressing them, including phasing out older trains and specific track upgrades.

Southern had argued that severe delays and cancellations were mostly down to sickness and industrial action outside of its control.

But Grayling said his team found that in many cases Southern's claim of force majeure did not apply to the number of trains cancelled or length of trains in service. And while performance on Southern had "improved dramatically" since Christmas as industrial action lessened, "performance is still not good enough".

Today, both London mayor Sadiq Khan and the RMT union criticised the £13.4m fine dealt out by the DfT.

The mayor said:

This fine will be absolutely no consolation for hard-pressed commuters who have been forced to suffer a litany of appalling service and spiralling fares.

It's time for the government to do the right thing by passengers and end this Southern misery. Ministers need to break up this failing licence now and allow TfL to take over the suburban routes to ensure passengers are given the service they truly deserve.

Khan has been making a renewed push for Transport for London to be given control of the capital's suburban rail services.

Meanwhile, Horton, GTR's chief executive, said: "We are pleased that this issue has been concluded, and accept and are sorry that our service levels haven’t been good enough for passengers.

"We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last twelve years.

"This has meant we have been running services for more and more passengers while also allowing stations to be rebuilt, platforms extended, track and signalling replaced and new trains and technology introduced too."

Read more: Transport secretary accuses Labour of fuelling railway unrest

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