Friday 21 October 2016 1:01 am

Embattled Southern rail operator Govia bills Network Rail for more than £48m

The owner of Southern Rail, the operator at the centre of a bitter industrial dispute, stung Network Rail for more than £48m in fines during the last fiscal year.

Govia – which runs the beleaguered Southern Rail network as well as the Thameslink, Southeastern, Gatwick Express, London Midland and Great Northern lines – billed Network Rail for disruption to the network that it said was not its fault.

The penalties represent almost half of the £106m shelled-out by Network Rail, the company that runs Britain’s rail infrastructure, to compensate train operating companies during 2015-16.

These fines are typically paid when delays are caused by problems on the rail network itself such as vandalism, cable theft, and trespassing on the lines.

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Govia’s Southern Rail is in deadlock with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) in a long-running dispute over the role of its guards on trains. The latest round of three-day strikes were completed yesterday with three further blocks of walkouts planned between now and Christmas.

The latest data, released by Network Rail this week, revealed that Govia’s subsidiary Govia Thameslink, which runs Southern Rail, charged £29m in fines for the year.

Govia said the money it received this way for its Govia Thameslink services is passed directly to the Department for Transport. This is because it operates on an unusual management contract.

Southeastern, another troubled operator owned by Govia, runs on a more typical franchise agreement and received £18.2m in fines from Network Rail during the year.

The Association of British Commuters, which campaigns on behalf of Southern Rail passengers, said: “Passengers will undoubtedly be interested to know how much of this money is passed back to the paying customer and in the event it is passed straight back to the DfT whether the money is re-invested for improvements to the tracks and signals that cause so many of the delays.

“The nature of the rail system in the UK allows different responsible parties to quite easily shift and deflect blame away from themselves.”

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A DfT spokesperson said it is investing £20m to improve parts of the network used by Southern Rail.

A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink told City A.M.: “These payments reflect the large number of delays caused to passenger services by Network Rail, including faults with tracks, signals and power supplies.

They are also greater because GTR is the UK’s biggest franchise in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff.”

Around 60 per cent of rail delays on the UK network are attributed to Network Rail by rail companies.

South West Trains, a non-Govia company that runs services into London Waterloo, also featured high on the fines list. It charged Network Rail £15.4m over the last year.