The government takes over the management of services in the south-east


The government will resume operating services from rail operator Southeastern after a “serious breach” of its franchise agreement.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said an investigation by his department identified evidence that since October 2014 the company had not declared more than £ 25million in historic public funds that should have been returned .

More investigations are ongoing and the government has said it will consider options for more action, including financial sanctions.

Mr Shapps said: “There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that LSER has violated the trust which is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways. When trust is broken, we will act decisively.

“Under the new operator, we will prioritize the punctual and reliable services that passengers deserve, restore confidence in this network and implement the reforms set out in our Plan for Rail – to build a modern railway that meets the needs of a nation. “

Southeastern is managed by Govia and operates services throughout the South East of England, covering London, Kent, East Sussex and 1 high speed lines.

Manuel Cortes, Secretary General of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association said: “The days of rail franchising must now be well and truly over. Time and time again we see the private sector fail and taxpayers come to the rescue.

“We need the government to get rid of the broken franchise system, end the profits of the railroad companies and take over the whole, lock the stock and the rails.

“Our union will now seek assurances that this mess does not affect the jobs of our members, as many of them have been true heroes on the front lines of the pandemic from day one.

“Passengers in the South East and across our rail network need services they can trust and a rail that works for them, rather than private profit. “

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This latest public sector bailout of a private rail service should end once and for all the risky and costly absurdity of rail privatization. .

“This collapse appears to be due to Govia playing swiftly and freely with its financial commitments and raising serious questions about the viability of its other operations, including the busy Thameslink services.

“It’s time to get the rest of Britain’s failing private rail operations out of their misery, cut out the middlemen and build a public railway fit for a post-Covid green future.”

The government will take over the management of services in the south-east from October 17, claiming that a serious breach of the obligation of “good faith” of the franchise contract in financial matters has been identified.

The ministers stressed that the announcement will have no impact on frontline staff, who they say have been on the front lines providing services throughout the Covid pandemic.

“The decision does not reflect their professionalism and dedication and will not affect jobs,” the Ministry of Transportation said.

Rail stock
A Southeastern Highspeed Javelin train passes through Dover in Kent (Gareth Fuller / PA)

“All tickets will remain valid after the transfer and new tickets can continue to be purchased in the usual way.”

Southeastern has operated rail service between London and Kent and parts of East Sussex since 2006, operating one of the country’s busiest networks including the UK’s first domestic high speed service with Javelin trains .

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

The company employs 4,000 workers and manages more than 2,000 services on weekdays.

It has nearly 400 trains and serves 180 stations.

Southeastern’s last contract began in April 2020, until October 16, with the option to extend at the discretion of the Department of Transportation until March 2022.

Over the term of the contract, Southeastern said it would offer a range of “customer experience enhancements,” including exploring options to increase capacity as additional rolling stock becomes available.

Go-Ahead Group President Clare Hollingsworth said: “It has always been our intention to provide the best public transport possible and to work in partnership with government and related agencies.

“We recognize that mistakes were made and we sincerely apologize to the DfT. We are working constructively with the DfT towards a settlement of this matter. “

The group indicated that the publication of its results for the fiscal year ended July 3, 2021, scheduled for September 30, has been postponed.

The group also announced that Elodie Brian has resigned from her position as Group CFO and will step down from the board with immediate effect.

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