22 July 2016
RMT Press Office:
RMT calls for new Rail Minister to reject GTR application to be exempt from breach of franchise agreement.
New Parliamentary answers and the government’s appearance at the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee on Wednesday evening have revealed that the Government will be able take the Southern Franchise off GTR if the new rail minister rejects a new application from the company to be let off the hook for breaching its franchise agreement.
In a written parliamentary question Kelvin Hopkins MP asked the Secretary of State for Transport:
“Whether the emergency timetable for Southern Rail services to be introduced from 11 July 2016 is in breach of the level of planned service train cancellations set out in the Remedial Plan agreed between Govia Thameslink Railway and his Department in February 2016.”
Shortly before she resigned the then Rail Minister Claire Perry responded,
“Under the Franchise Agreement, where GTR can provide the evidence that cancellations are due to official or unofficial industrial action, they can claim Force Majeure which they have done.”
Force Majeure is a term used to define extraordinary events beyond the control of the organisation effected.
At the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee on Wednesday the Department for Transport Director Peter Wilkinson seemed to be unaware of Perry’s answer but said,
“It is for the operator make the application [ for Force Majeure] and for the department to consider the application... I don’t’ think we have invoked force majeure at this time.”
RMT said it would be a “gross betrayal of the Ministers responsibilities to passengers and completely irrational and irresponsible” if the Department agreed to GTRs requests.
Not only will it make it harder for the Department to take the franchise off GTR it is also the case that the problems affecting the franchise are entirely of the GTRs making. The claims of unofficial action are completely bogus while Perry herself accused GTR of poor industrial relations while Peter Wilkinson had previously warned of a need for a “punch up” with the trade unions.
The Minister used the Committee hearing to say he was prepared to meet the RMT and the union called for those talks to take place as a matter of urgency.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“There is no excuse whatsoever for the Government wasting any more time in pulling the plug on the basket-case Govia Thameslink operation. It has failed, it continues to fail and they should be terminated with immediate effect and Directly Operated Railways drafted in to sort out the chaos they have unleashed.
"If the Government allow GTR to bend the rules yet again to avoid termination it would be a gross betrayal of their responsibilities to the hundreds of thousands of people caught up in this colossal privatisation failure.
"RMT wants urgent action and urgent talks. "