Report finds Southern passengers face worst disruption
VALUE for money has not been achieved by the UK's largest rail franchise, a report by the National Audit Office has found.
The government spending watchdog found passengers on the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise, which serves Portsmouth and surrounding areas, have suffered the worst disruption on the network since services began in 2014.
Industrial action has been a ‘major contributor’ to delays and cancellations, but the Department for Transport (DfT) made decisions which ‘have negatively impacted on passengers’, it found.
Jon Woods, from the Portsmouth Trade Union Council, led a protest last week at Portsmouth and Southsea station following a hike in train fare prices.
He said: ‘I am not surprised at the findings in this report.
‘I put it down to the privatisation of the railway services. It seems like these companies, and Southern Railway is a good example, have little interest in the passengers and the safety of these services.
‘People are thoroughly fed up with the way our train services are running. I think there is now a real need for re-nationalisation of the railways.’
Since Govia began operating the full franchise of services, around 7.7 per cent have either been cancelled or delayed by over half-an-hour, compared with 2.8 per cent on the rest of the network.
A large chunk of the disruption has been caused by a shortage of train crews.
The DfT and Govia say industrial action was the biggest cause of this, although the operator has also been hit by a shortage of employed drivers.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: ‘Long-suffering passengers on the TSGN franchise have experienced the worst performance on the network.
‘Some of the problems could have been avoided if the DfT had taken more care to consider passengers in its design of the franchise.’
Govia chief executive Charles Horton said the difficulties faced by the franchise have ‘sometimes been greater than expected and we regret the disruption caused to our passengers’.
He added: ‘I am more confident than ever that its trailblazing achievements will be felt by rail travellers for generations to come.’
A DfT spokesman said: ‘The report confirms the primary cause of delays and cancellations to passengers has been lack of available staff, which is a direct result of strike action.’