Southern 'fail' report spreads the blame as strife continues


A major report for government on the Southern Rail debacle identified industrial relations as the main cause of failure, as unions signal further strike action.

The report was written by former Virgin Rail boss Chris Gibb, who was asked by transport secretary Chris Grayling last autumn to recommend ways of improving the ‘unacceptable' service on Southern rail.

It states that the leadership of the RMT and ASLEF, supported currently by their members, ‘are the primary cause for the system integrity to fail’, mainly by taking industrial action.

However it goes on to state that ‘many parties have, with the best of intentions, driven elements of change, all of which have come together at this time to cause the overall system to fail’.

The major factors include:

  • a large infrastructure enhancements programme
  • an exceptionally high number of ‘committed obligations’ in the winning franchise bid from GTR, including one to extend driver only operation (DOO) and introduce on board supervisors
  • opposition to DOO from the ASLEF and RMT unions
  • too few staff, particularly drivers; rising passenger demand
  • and ‘a complicated timetable which is at the maximum capability of the system’

Fixing the problems however were outside the report's remit.

The report found that stripping GTR of the franchise could make things worse, but recommended the transfer of the East Croydon to Milton Keynes service to Transport for London.

The unions seized on a comment in the report - addressed to Mr Grayling - that reads: ‘Whilst you are already determining the strategic direction of this dispute, the introduction of a state owned and governed operator would mean that every aspect of the dispute would fall under the direction of the secretary of state.'

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘I note Chris Gibb states that no single party is responsible for the Southern Rail’s performance. He’s right. It’s a combination of the Department for Transport and GTR/Southern deliberately provoking an industrial dispute.’

Transport secretary Chris Grayling commissioned the report

Mr Grayling said the report was due to be published in April but fell foul of the pre-election period's purdah rules. However the report was recieved by the department in January and purdah only started on the 21 of April. The transport secretary has also courted controversy around purdah by allocating £3m to an A27 study the day after the election was called.

The Southern report was called ‘a detailed, considered account of the problems the network experienced last year’ by Mr Grayling and said work is already underway to deliver on its recommendations.

Following the breakdown of talks with the company last week, Mr Whelan said the union would be balloting on further industrial action ‘because of the company’s inept attempt to conflate pay and changes to working practices’.

On Thursday the RMT said it would hold a further 24-hour strike on Southern next month, as well as three-day on strikes on Arriva Rail North and MerseyRail in separate disputes over DOO.


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Highways Estimator

Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Senior Project Engineer

Derbyshire County Council
Grade 13 £39,867 - £43,282 per annum
Derbyshire County Council is looking for an enthusiastic, enterprising and experienced laboratory manager Derbyshire
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council