GTR – a franchise formed to transform passenger services
9 December 2015 • Author(s): Charles Horton, Chief Executive Officer, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is now Britain’s biggest rail franchise – carrying 237 million passenger journeys a year and earning the Department for Transport (DfT) £1.3 billion in annual passenger revenue. Operating over 3,200 services every weekday, plus managing 236 stations and including 6,800 staff, the business oversees four different networks of Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern. So why have GTR been given the keys to this super new franchise? Chief Executive Officer, Charles Horton, explains.
Put simply, it’s to unlock billions of pounds of investment that will transform passengers’ journeys. Because the story of GTR is a story of delivery; and it’s something that any CEO would give his right arm to oversee.
Our seven-year franchise is going to deliver four new train fleets, new services, a step-change in capacity, better stations, better staffing and improved timetables.
The Thameslink Programme
At the heart of all this is our joint delivery with Network Rail of the government-sponsored £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme which, by 2018, will have linked together towns in Sussex and Kent, plus along the East Coast Mainline into the Thameslink route, offering direct cross-London journeys with the type of benefits such as Cambridge to Gatwick in just 1 hour 40 minutes – that’s 30 minutes quicker than today’s trip by train and Tube.
Not the ‘normal’ franchise
The franchise is an unusual one. We receive fare income from passengers as usual but then pass this to the DfT, whereas most other UK passenger rail franchises keep this income and account for it as their revenue. We instead receive regular cash payments from the government for operating the franchise and for bearing the risks and liabilities that this responsibility entails. We can also earn additional payments from DfT if we ensure that the Thameslink Programme meets its key milestone dates; however, we can lose this income if we don’t deliver the programme on time with industry partners…