The Government has so far imposed penalties of just over £2m on the beleaguered Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise, which includes Southern Railway, it has been revealed.
The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which is in dispute with GTR over the extension of driver only operation (DOO) on Southern services, pointed out that the sum was less than the £3.4m the company paid in bonuses and salary to just two of its directors.
The RMT is holding a further strike on Tuesday (21 June) over GTR’s attempt to change the role of conductors (guards) on Southern services.
Earlier this month, the Department for Transport told Transport Network that because of commercial sensitivities the exact penalties levied on rail companies are not routinely published.
However, rail minister Claire Perry subsequent revealed in a parliamentary answer that the incentive/penalty regime for the franchise ‘has seen just over £2m levied against GTR in respect of their cancellation and short-formation performance benchmarks’ since September 2014.
As incentive and penalty payments are calculated annually, it appears that this figure does not cover the last few months, during which Southern has cancelled thousands of services.
The RMT also pointed to a separate parliamentary answer, clarifying that GTR's poor performance against the Public Performance Measure (PPM) does not put in breach of its controversial remedial plan because the measure is not part of GTR’s franchise agreement. It said this meant that the company ‘can continue running services where less than half its train run on time with no penalty whatsoever’.
However, Ms Perry also pointed out that the franchise agreement includes delay minutes as a performance measure.
GTR’s PPM – based on both punctuality and reliability – for the four week period ending 28 May was 78.1%, significantly lower than other companies.
Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary accused the Government of trying to 'minimise penalties on the company' while allowing 'the top bosses to pay themselves fatcat bonuses' despite major problems with the rail service.
He added: ‘RMT knows that when Southern talk about "changing the role of the guard" what they really mean is axing the guards all together as they put their profits above public safety.’
Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the ‘ongoing charade we’ve seen with Southern trains’ was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ and called for the transfer of suburban rail services to Transport for London to be made a priority.