Friday, 14 July 2017

The Southern Railway Fiasco Trundles On!

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that the owners of Southern Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), have been fined £13.4m for poor performance, explaining that the fine would have been higher, but most delays had not been the fault of the railway company! The transport secretary, Chris Grayling said that the £13.4m was to be spent on performance and passenger improvements, including £4m to fund 50 on-board supervisors over the next two years, adding that passengers had "been badly let down." Indeed, the train operator now runs only three-quarters of the trains that were run a year ago by Southern!
The Association of British Commuters (ABC) had taken legal action seeking a judicial review, as detailed in a previous blog. They had argued that ministers had acted unlawfully by failing to determine whether managers had breached franchise obligations. However, Mr Justice Ouseley said he would not grant a judicial review on the understanding that Mr Grayling would come to a decision over the Southern rail crisis by 13 July, well, he's come to a decision! Emily Yates, of ABC, said the fine "doesn't really touch the sides of this whole issue. This is a token £13.4m fine presented as an improvement package." See report.
However, the drivers' union, Aslef, continues with its own 'work to rule' or overtime ban, and, following a vote of all members, has called for strikes on Tuesday 1st, Wednesday 2nd, and Friday 4th of August 2017; see report
So, the Government, which has been funding Southern/GTR's escalating industrial conflict with the drivers' and conductors' unions, Aslef and the RMT, 'fines' the company, but gives the money back to them for 'performance and passenger improvements.' No solution has been found to ABC's assertion that the company has continued to 'breach franchise obligations' and Grayling retains his job, as do GTR retain the franchise. Meanwhile, customers who use Southern Railway, when possible, continue to receive a worsening service...

It's time to sack the Transport Secretary, who obviously cannot do his job without politically interfering in the industrial conflict, thus making it worse, and it's time to take the franchise away from GTR and re-nationalise Southern Railway, and quickly please!

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