Ministers have been accused of allowing passengers to be “let down day after day” by ignoring “damning evidence” of Govia Thameslink’s poor performance, including on the troubled Southern route on which passengers have faced months of cancellations, late running trains and strikes.
Performance figures show that over the last five week period only 62 per cent of trains run by Govia Thameslink – including on the Gatwick Express, Southern Mainline, Southern Metro, Thameslink and Great Northern services – arrived on time.
An analysis by City Hall suggests this is the worst performance for any train operator in more than a decade.
According to the figures, Southern Rail’s performance is the worst in the country, with only 56 per cent of the franchise’s mainline trains arriving on time.
Southern has been blighted by months of strike action and industrial unrest with passengers caught in the middle of a row about a move to Driver Only Operation which sees responsibility for closing and monitoring train doors move away from conductors to drivers. Rail unions oppose the change, claiming it is less safe than the current staffing model however around 40% of the UK’s train services, including the London Overground, already operate in DOO mode.
Earlier this week London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of “catastrophically failing London’s commuters” by failing to step in and address Southern’s performance.
Mr Khan has previously offered to send in a Transport for London ‘hit squad’ to oversee the franchise on a temporary basis but ministers have rejected this saying a change of management would not assist in resolving the conductor dispute.
Some political opponents and commentators have also questioned whether the agency has the necessary skill set to deliver improvements.
However Mr Grayling’s recent decision to abandon a rail devolution strategy backed by London politicians of all parties has raised doubts about the reasoning behind his rejection and galvanised support for the Mayor’s rail devolution agenda.
Speaking on Thursday Mayor Khan said Grayling and Govia should be “utterly ashamed” by the latest performance figures and repeated his calls to be given emergency control of Southern services.
He also urged the unions to cancel further planned industrial action and return to the negotiating table.
Publishing his office’s analysis of Govia’s performance, Mr Khan said: “These new figures are the most damning evidence yet that Govia Thameslink are not fit to run rail services around London.
“The Government and Govia should be utterly ashamed at how many passengers are being let down day after day, and it’s having a detrimental impact on London’s economy.
“My message to passengers across the commuter belt is clear: I have a top team at TfL ready to send in at a moment’s notice to sort out Southern and a clear long-term solution of giving control of commuter rail services to TfL, leading to a more reliable, frequent and affordable service.
“The Government need to stop burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the evidence – Govia must be stripped of the Southern Franchise.”