Grayling gives GTR £20m to bail out Southern


Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced a package of measures including £20m funding to address ‘unacceptable disruption’ on Southern rail services.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said Chris Gibb, described as ‘one of Britain’s most experienced rail industry figures’ would head a new project board, working with train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the DfT and Network Rail.

The board would ‘explore how to achieve a rapid improvement to services for the public’.

A Southern train at Mitcham Junction

The project board will oversee a new £20m fund and closer working between GTR and Network Rail to improve Southern’s performance.

It will include a passenger representative and will present its plan in the autumn, with actions to be implemented ‘as soon as possible’.

The £20m fund dwarfs the £2m that former rail minister Claire Perry revealed in June had so far been paid by GTR in penalties.

Mr 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 £20m scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network.'

The DfT said the £20m 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 get away on time.

It said the package of measures ‘follows unacceptable disruption for passengers in recent months, with many of the current issues caused by ongoing industrial action by the RMT as well as unofficial disruption and guards going off sick’.

GTR chief executive Charles Horton said: ‘We welcome the benefits this £20m improvement package will bring for passengers, tackling some of the key infrastructure challenges on the network. Network Rail and Southern will continue to work closely together to ensure this investment delivers real, tangible benefits for our passengers and the new project board will ensure the programme is effectively delivered.'

The DfT said 'Key additional benefits' of the £20m will include:

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

Mr Gibb is currently a non executive director at Network Rail and was previously chief operating officer of Virgin Rail Group.


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