Tuesday 28 September 2021 3:47 pm

Shares collapse for London-listed firm behind Southeastern train operations

One of the companies behind Southeastern train operations, which the government took control of this morning, has had its share collapse nearly 25 per cent.

Southeastern is operated by Govia, a joint venture between transport operators Go-Ahead (65 per cent) and Keolis (35 per cent).

Go-Ahead’s shares plunged 24.98 per cent to 769p per share in its afternoon trading.

Chief financial officer of the transport firm Elodie Brian has resigned, since the news broke that Southeastern ‘seriously breached’ its franchise agreement with the Government.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman said he understands that the Serious Fraud Office “will be involved”, as Southeastern had not declared more than £25m of historic taxpayer funding since 2014, which should have been returned.

The Go-Ahead Group’s chairman, Clare Hollingsworth, said: “It has always been this Group’s intention to provide the best possible public transport, and to work in partnership with the Government and related agencies. We recognise that mistakes have been made and we sincerely apologise to the Department for Transport (DfT).

“We are working constructively with the DfT towards a settlement of this matter.”

‘Passengers will want answers’

Norman Baker at Campaign for Better Transport said: “It is important that all public money spent on the railways is properly accounted for and that passengers who rely on this line are not adversely affected by the change of operator.”

The Government is set to take over the running of services on Southeastern’s network – which runs across south-east England, covering London, Kent, East Sussex and the High Speed 1 line – from October 17.

Chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said: “Whoever runs Southeastern, passengers will want a dependable plan which delivers on their key priorities – a punctual, reliable, clean and value for money service with enough room to sit and stand.

“In the long-term passengers will want answers as to why this error occurred and assurances from government and Go-Ahead that it is being investigated and fixed.”

Despite the way in which the takeover has come about, director of London Travel Watch Emma Gibson is pleased that Southeastern will continue to deliver reliable services.

“We’re pleased to hear the transport secretary say that delivering punctual and reliable services will be a priority when the government’s operator of last resort takes over Southeastern’s rail services in October.

“Our research with train passengers in London shows that their number one concern is making sure that trains aren’t over-crowded. So it’s also important that the current frequency of trains is maintained as well.”