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£20 million fund to improve performance of Southern network

1 September 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced a package of measures to improve performance and restore passenger confidence in the Southern network.

London Mayor reiterates call for TfL to take control of Southern franchise

The package of measures, announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) on the 01 September 2016, includes a £20 million fund to improve the running of the network, plus the appointment of Chris Gibb – current non-executive director at Network Rail with more than 35-years of experience within the industry – to head a new review board.

New review board established to improve Southern performance

The board will work with the train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the Department for Transport and Network Rail, to explore how to achieve improvement to the rail service. Furthermore, the board will oversee the funding and the closer working between GTR and Network Rail to improve performance.

In addition, a passenger representative will be invited on the review board to ensure views of the commuter are heard.

According to the DfT, the £20 million fund will tackle problems on the line placing more rapid response teams on the franchise, accelerating the replacement of worn track, and hiring extra staff at key stations including East Croydon and Gatwick to make sure trains depart on time.

The improvement plan will be presented in the autumn with actions implemented as soon as possible.

“This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “I want the Southern network to be run by a team of people who work together to make sure passengers get decent journeys and that problems are dealt with quickly. This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks and make things work better for the public.

“We also need to get to grips with things that go wrong on this part of the network. That is why we are putting in place a £20 million scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network.”

“I now urge the industry, the train operating company and unions to work together to improve services for passengers.”

£20 million improvement fund

  • £2 million to be spent on more rapid response teams to fix faults more quickly, located close to known hotspots
  • £2.5 million to be spent on accelerated train maintenance
  • £0.8 million investment in extra signal supervisors to keep trains moving across the network
  • £0.9 million investment in a series of measures to minimise the impact of bridge strikes

Commenting on his appointment, Chris Gibb said: “I look forward to helping the rail industry improve the passenger experience on the Southern network. Committed railway people across the industry work hard round the clock to provide the best possible service to a growing number of passengers, during a time of much needed major investment. I will bring together the energy of these people to find ways to improve the delivery of this service in the short and medium term.”

Industry reaction…

Reacting to the announcement, Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is a welcome if delayed intervention from the Government. Targeted investment, better management and stronger passenger involvement will all help in getting Southern back on track. Passengers who have endured months of cancellations and delays will want the Government to go further though, particularly as commuters are still set to see their fares go up next year.

“As well as a fund for Southern, there should be a fund for passengers to compensate them for the disruptions they’ve suffered so far, and season ticket fares must be frozen next year so commuters aren’t paying yet more for a beleaguered service. And we also need a Passenger Assembly where government, union representatives and Southern managers can answer directly to people and hear about their concerns.”

“As well as a fund for Southern, there should be a fund for passengers to compensate them for the disruptions they’ve suffered so far”

Summer Dean from the Association of British Commuters, said: “Southern passengers have been sidelined for too long and so it’s good news there’ll be a passenger representative on this new board. We need that representative to be genuinely representative of passengers, accountable and in touch with commuters, and not just tokenistic. The question for us is, will this board take responsibility and sort out a restoration of the full service and trains running reliably to time, or will just add another layer of bureaucracy? We just want an end to the blame-shifting.”

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