London Evening Standard/London
Sadiq Khan branded Southern Rail an “embarrassment to our city” yesterday as he urged the government to strip the operator of its franchise.
The mayor accused Govia Thameslink Railway of letting down commuters with its “disgraceful” level of service. He called on the department for transport to take temporary control of operations from the firm, which was inflicting “unceasing misery” on passengers every day.
This week, the embattled operator brought in an emergency timetable in which almost 350 services a day were cancelled, forcing commuters on to packed trains or buses.
Hundreds of passengers gathered at Victoria station to protest against the changes introduced by the company following months of disputes with staff.
Khan called on transport ministers to speed up the long-promised transfer of suburban rail services to Transport for London so that he could deliver improved services, stations and fares.
“I am appalled by the unceasing misery that Southern Rail has inflicted on tens of thousands of passengers and I share their outrage at the lack of action to address it,” he said.
“Passengers are paying thousands of pounds for a service that rather than being ‘turn up and go’ has become ‘turn up and hope’. Their frustration at such a disgraceful level of service is obvious and it is justified.
“This utter mess is an embarrassment to our city, it is an insult to hard-working Londoners who pay their fares and it must be fixed. That is why I am calling on the government to strip Southern of its franchise and take over the temporary responsibility of running these services.”
City Hall believes there is a precedent for stripping GTR of the franchise. In 2003, Connex South Eastern lost its franchise eight years early because of poor financial management, while in 2007 GNER lost the East Coast mainline for the same reason.
At the Victoria station protest, passengers held their annual passes in the air, chanted and brandished placards emblazoned with the campaign motto “#Southernfail”.
Organiser Alex Prosser-Snelling, who commutes from Horsham, said: “You can see how really frustrated these people are. We are talking about fare strikes but because the operator’s income is fixed from the government we don’t know how effective it will be.
“People are declassifying themselves and sitting in first-class seats — they are taking the law into their own hands because they have no other options. We could try to bombard their complaints system with emails, but I don’t think they have one.”
A Southern spokesman apologised for the delays, blaming “unnecessary industrial action” and said talks with the RMT union over the role of conductors were expected to resume this week.
A man takes part in a protest at Victoria Station against train operator Southern rail’s planned timetable cut.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Greece inaugurates the first of five ‘closed’ camps for asylum-seekers
Hundreds of seabirds found dead along UK coasts
UK govt moves to manage impact of rising gas prices
France recalls ambassadors to Australia, US in escalating row
Chess legend sues over 'Queen’s Gambit' portrayal
Second Dutch minister resigns
UN extends Afghan mission mandate
Pelosi cautions Britain over N Irish peace deal
UK launches post-Brexit review of EU laws