Time for Southern to lose the franchise

Southern Rail has been one of the biggest problems facing our neighbourhood for some time now. The constant delays, overcrowding and cancelled trains have blighted commuters and leisure travellers for two years now.

Southern’s performance is abysmal – the worst of any line in the country. The latest performance data showed 17.3% of services were at least 5 minutes late, over double the national average. 5.4% of trains were also either cancelled or over 30 minutes late, which is also double the national average.

On Monday 23rd May, 997 Southern trains (31% of the total) were late of which 322 (10% of the total) were over 30 minutes late or entirely cancelled. 45% of all very late and cancelled trains in the whole UK that day were Southern trains.

I have been complaining to Ministers, Southern and Network Rail since being elected over a year ago and been promised improvements. These improvements have not materialised, and in fact the situation continues to get worse.

When Southern joined with Thameslink and Great Northern under the umbrella of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), it became the largest rail franchise to ever exist in the UK, covering 23% of all UK journeys. As demonstrated by the constant decline in performance measures, this franchise is unmanageable. I am therefore now calling for the franchise to be removed from GTR and broken up in to smaller franchises.

GTR breached the performance level for cancellations last year and the Secretary of State for Transport issued them a Remedial Notice. I have written to him asking for details of this.

The suburban commuter lines, including the lines from Croydon to Victoria, are due to be moved under the jurisdiction of TfL by 2021. This now needs to be done immediately. TfL has a far better track record than GTR and can be trusted to run the services more effectively.

We need to ensure that the problems of GTR are not repeated. Parliament’s Transport Committee is currently holding an inquiry into rail franchising as part of wider hearings on the future of rail. I have written to the committee urging them review how such a large franchise as GTR was allowed to exist and how these performance problems can be avoided in the future.

It is time to end the Southern misery.