Rail passengers suffer 'misery', say MPs

The government's management of two of the UK's biggest rail franchises has been "completely inadequate", a report by MPs claims.

The Public Accounts Committee said that a "catalogue of failures" by the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Govia Thameslink had caused "misery" for passengers - writes bbc.com

It said UK passengers are paying for a "broken" rail franchising model.

However, the DfT said the "imbalanced" report made "inaccurate claims".

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "The operation of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise has been a multi-faceted shambles causing untold misery for passengers.

"Meanwhile, the East Coast franchise has failed for a third time because of wildly inaccurate passenger growth forecasts.

She said: "In both cases the government appears to have seen its task as simply to contract out the service, with wholly inadequate consideration given to passengers' best interests and behaviour."

The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern is the government's largest passenger rail franchise, operating trains in the South East.

Govia Thameslink began running the franchise in September 2014. Between July 2015 and March 2017, 146,000 trains were cancelled and more were delayed than on any other franchise.

Southern services have suffered major disruption over the past two years from strikes called by rail unions including the RMT.

In awarding the franchise, the Department for Transport "overlooked the poor condition of the infrastructure of the rail network", the Public Accounts Committee said.

It was also "ambivalent about the risk of industrial action and neglected to engage constructively with rail unions".

East Coast woes

The committee also criticised the East Coast franchise, which was due to be run by Stagecoach and Virgin Trains until 2023.

But in February, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the rail franchise would need new arrangements "within a very small number of months and no more" after Stagecoach found it couldn't make payments.

Virgin East Coast train

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

The committee said the government had "failed to learn the lessons from previous failures of the franchise, and has again allowed the operator to promise more than it could deliver".

It added that "passenger growth forecasts were wildly wrong" leading to inaccurate forecasts about how much money Virgin Trains East Coast would make.

'Improved dramatically'

However, the Department for Transport said the Public Accounts Committee had produced "an imbalanced report that fails to grasp the complexity of the situation".

A DfT spokesman said that Southern disruption had been "unacceptable... but services have improved dramatically".

He said: "Our franchising model already puts passengers and taxpayers first and has doubled the number of passengers using trains since privatisation reversed decades of decline and underinvestment under British Rail."

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink said its Southern services were now "a third more reliable compared to 2016 when the effect of industrial action was at its worst".

Stagecoach and Virgin Trains said in a joint statement: "We have met or exceeded all of our contractual commitments on the East Coast and have never lost sight of our focus on customers."

They added they were progressing with an £140m investment programme.

Network Rail said it had increased its involvement with franchise planning.

Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: "The PAC and I are in agreement that priorities and incentives of Network Rail and franchise operators need to be aligned."

"We continue to work with government and industry partners to bring track and train together to deliver a better railway for a better Britain," Mr Carne added.

Read more news of London on our site.

bbc.com
Railpassengerssuffer
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in august
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Comments are designed to communicate and discuss the features of an enterprise or event, as well as to find out the interesting questions on it.

Incidents
A man has been charged with the murder of a nurse who appeared on Britain's Got Talent in an NHS choir. Simonne Samantha Kerr, 31, from Wembley, was found fatally injured in a house in Grayshott Road, Battersea, on Wednesday - writes  bbc.com She was treated by paramedics but pronounced dead at the scene. Desmond Sylva, 40, of Grayshott Road, will appear in Wimbledon Magistrates' Court on Friday. Police are not looking for anyone else over Ms Kerr's death....
Society
A maths teacher has been showing off her artistic skills by decorating rocks with incredible miniature versions of book covers. Ella Dickson, 39, spends up to an hour painting covers of books like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Northern Lights and Matilda on rocks. She posts her intricate creations on a local Facebook page before hiding them near her local library for kids to find, photograph and then often re-hide. Mum-of-two Ella is part of th...
Incidents
A doctor who worked as a physician to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has been killed after colliding with a truck as he cycled through central London. Peter Fisher, 67, was riding through the High Holborn area on Wednesday morning when the collision occurred. Police said he had died at the scene. “We are all deeply shocked and saddened to learn that Dr Peter Fisher tragically died in a road traffic accident yesterday,” Gill Gaskin, medical director at Universit...
Society
Students collecting results from their school in the shadow of Grenfell Tower said they were proud to be bringing a sense of hope back to the community. Safety concerns forced Kensington Aldridge Academy to move to portable classrooms after the fire in June last year. Four of the school’s pupils and one former student were among the 72 killed. Students were given the choice to sit the exams in the original building or in the temporary classrooms. Many retu...
Society
A former refugee who stood outside Canary Wharf station with a sign pleading for work says he is "overwhelmed" after a tweet showing him standing with his sign went viral. 22-year-old Mohamed Elbarkey sayshis self-promotional stunt has earned him some promising job leads, including interviews at places he would "love to work at." Mr Elbarkey came to the UK with his family as a refugee from Libya and graduated with a 2:1 in Aerospace Engineering from Southa...
Society
In a UK first, shoppers in south London can now buy groceries in Sainsbury’s without going to the checkout or self-service scanner. By simply using their smart phone, shoppers can skip the queue altogether and buy products by scanning what they need themselves - writes standard.co.uk The supermarket chain is trialling new scan, pay and go technology in its Clapham North branch. The trial is thought to be the first of its kind not just in London, but the wh...
Crime
Four men have been stabbed and six have been arrested following an incident in Camberwell. Officers were called to playing fields outside Landor House at 5.24pm following reports of a stabbing. According to a Scotland Yard spokesperson, the four men, all believed to be in their teens,"have all been taken to south London hospitals." "Six males have been arrested in connection with the incident." Police remain at the scene. The condition of the four men is n...
Society
A dance festival for 10,000 revellers in a south London park has been refused a licence after complaints from couples that the event would “spoil” their weddings nearby - writes standard.co.uk Diynamic Festival was set to take place in Morden Park on September 8. Tickets were already sold for the event, which boasts a line-up of house and techno DJs including Solomun and Adriatique across two stages. But Merton council rejected a licence application for it...
Society
He made the promise as the government announced £10m to improve security and conditions at certain jails. New body scanners and sniffer dogs are to be introduced in 10 of England's most "challenging" prisons as part of a clampdown on drugs and mobile phones. The dogs have been trained to detect psychoactive substances such as Spice. Ministers also want to raise standards of leadership by sending prison governors to military-style colleges. And there will b...