Government takes control of Southeastern train services after franchise row

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Southeastern’s train service has become the latest rail franchise to be taken over by the UK government after being brought back under direct public control following an investigation into the franchise holder’s finances.

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Govia – a joint venture between Go-Ahead Group and Keolis, which has owned the line since 2006 – was taken out of service last month after failing to announce more than £25m of taxpayer funding.

The Department of Transport (DfT) will now run the Southeastern network under the Operator of Last Resort (OLR) scheme.


The network, which is one of the busiest in the UK, spans south-east England and includes London, Kent, East Sussex and the High Speed ​​1 line.

However, this change is not likely to bring any immediate change for passengers as trains, timetable and fares will remain the same and staff will remain the same.

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Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Monitoring Transportation, “Whoever drives Southeastern, travelers want a reliable service that meets their key priorities: punctual, reliable, clean trains, enough to sit and stand on. For rent of place and money.” Focus said.

The OLR scheme has previously been used to take two other franchises, London North Eastern Railway launching in 2018 and Northern Trains starting in March 2020.

Cat Hobbs, director of the public ownership campaign group We Own It, said that Southeastern’s acquisition showed that it was “time to bring the entire rail network into public hands”.

“Over and over again, privatization is failing our railways and franchises are being brought into public ownership one by one,” Ms. Hobbs said.

“Profit-driven companies will not put passengers or the public first – especially as railways are a natural monopoly where we have no choice between companies.”

Earlier this year, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a DFT investigation found Govia failed to declare more than £25 million of historical taxpayers’ money that should have been refunded.

Mr Shapps warned that the government would not accept “anything less” than “complete transparency with taxpayer support” for rail franchises.

Go-Ahead Group’s chief financial officer, Elodie Bryan, also resigned following the announcement that Southeast was to be acquired.

Further investigation is underway and the government is considering options for further action, including financial penalties.


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