The government has slapped rail franchise Govia with a £23.5m fine over a breach of an agreement relating to High Speed One.
The penalty notice for the company – run by the Go-Ahead Group (65 per cent) and Keolis (35 per cent) – was issued to the operating firm London & South Eastern Railway Limited (LSER) on Thursday.
“I took decisive action and did not renew the contract with Southeastern following this appalling breach of trust”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
He added the “rapid and firm action protected taxpayers and passengers”, while branding LSER’s behaviour “simply unacceptable” with the fine sending a “clear message” to other would-be offenders.
The £23.5m fine is on top of £64m recovered from LSER in relation to the franchise agreement contraventions.
This comes after evidence was found that Govia deliberately concealed £25m of taxpayer funding related to HS1, which should have been returned.
The Department for Transport, on Thursday (DofT) said breaches at the franchise occurred between 2014 and 2020, while a review uncovered evidence of similar behaviour as early as 2006. LSER ran the services from 2006 until it was stripped of the licence in October 2021.
Following the breach of trust, the service would be run by the DofT’s Operator of Last Resort (OLR).
General Secretary of rail trade union, RMT Mick Lynch said the fine and scandal showed by Govia should be kicked out of the railway franchise.
“The privatised financial scandal on SouthEastern is no fluke, it reinforces our case that franchising on our railways was always a racket and that this scam was the tip of the iceberg.
“Financial sanctions are not enough. Govia should be stripped of the rest of their lucrative London commuter routes as part of a plan to rid our railways of the privatisation nonsense once and for all. “
Southeastern’s network is one of the busiest in Britain, stretching across south-east England, including London, Kent, East Sussex and the High Speed 1 line.