10 January 2018
RMT Press Office:
Damning National Audit Office report into Southern/GTR scandal fuels RMT demand for company to be stripped of franchise immediately.
In a report today the National Audit Office (NAO) detail the Department for Transport’s (DfT) abject failure with regards to the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Franchise.
Noting that between September 2014 and September 2017 GTR passengers have experienced the worst overall service performance on the national rail network in terms of the number of trains arriving on time the report goes on to reveal:
· The Department for Transport made decisions on this franchise, the cumulative effect of which have negatively impacted on passengers. The NAO cannot therefore conclude that the Department has to date achieved value for money from this franchise. The Department also expects to pay Govia Thameslink for the additional costs, potentially amounting to tens of millions of pounds a year.
· The Department did not seek sufficient assurance that Govia Thameslink would have enough train drivers when it took on the franchise.
· Around 56,000 cancellations were related “to the availability of drivers and other train crew”. An issue which the union maintains is wholly down to poor workforce planning and corner-cutting by the company.
· The Department knew the scale of Driver Only Operation proposed by GTR would increase the risk of industrial action but it did not fully evaluate the possible effects on passengers before awarding the contract, nor did it ask GTR to do so. The union says that at no point have the company tried to negotiate seriously with RMT officials throughout the current dispute, despite the union reaching lasting agreements in Scotland and Wales on the same issue.
· The Department also negotiated a settlement for Govia Thameslink to buy out its liability in respect of the performance sums in the contract years September 2016 to September 2018. The department told the NAO that it did this in order to agree more investment in the franchise to improve performance. At the time of writing the report it is unclear to the NAO how the DFT will incentivise GTR to improve performance for passengers having removed its ability to use financial performance penalties up to September 2018.
· The NAO also reveal the Department and GTR are currently secretly negotiating a revised remedial plan and interim performance measures.
· The NAO recommends the Department strengthen its monitoring of train operators crew planning when they are near the end of their franchise terms as well as ensuring that the workforce projections in franchise plans are realistic.
Responding to the NAO report RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“This dynamite report blows wide open the whole scandal of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise and the scale of Government collusion with the private train operators, which has bled the taxpayer dry while giving this basket-case operation a free hand to slash staff and run services into the ground.
“The report makes it clear that tens of millions of pounds of public money, cash which could have guaranteed a guard on the trains and delivered decent, accessible rail services, was instead wasted propping up the private owners while they presided over the worst rail franchise in the country. This is a scandal of epic proportions with Chris Grayling and the Tories centre stage and worst still they are about to embark on an even bigger taxpayer bail-out on the privatised East Coast Mainline.
“The solution is simple. GTR should be stripped of the franchise for gross and repeated failures, the routes should be taken under public ownership and the cash-led cuts to safety critical staffing should be halted and reversed. Anything else is just another cop out and will spark a furious backlash from the passengers and staff caught in the middle of this grotesque chaos. This report should be the final nail in the coffin of more than two decades of rail privatisation in Britain.”