Passengers on Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services have suffered the worst rail disruption in the UK, according to a highly critical report.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has said that the UK’s largest rail franchise had not provided value for money.
It was felt that the services were the worst on the network” since Govia Thameslink (GTR) took over the roads.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the industrial action resulted in a shortage of train crews.
It is blamed for not ensuring adequate staffing prior to the award of the franchise.
The government’s spending watchdog the NAO said GTR had too few drivers when he was awarded the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise.
He added that since RWG started the exploitation of the full franchise in July 2015, 7.7% of the services – approximately 146 000 services – has been cancelled or delayed more than 30 minutes, compared to 2.8% in the rest of the network.
Of these, more than a third have been caused by the train crew shortage.
The RMT union is to call for GTR to be stripped of the franchise, after “dynamite report blows wide open the whole scandal” of the company.
Amyas Morse, head of the nao, said: “Over the past three years, the long-suffering passengers on the Thameslink franchise had the worst performance on the rail network.
“Some of these problems could have been avoided if the Department [for Transport] had taken more care to consider the passengers in his conception of the franchise.”
An NAO spokesman for the DfT “does not seek sufficient assurance that Govia Thameslink would be enough of train drivers, when it took the franchise”.
“Govia Thameslink received less drivers that he has provided to the former operator of the Thameslink and Great Northern routes, and the shortage of drivers persisted on the Great Northern services,” he added.’Return the ball’
The DfT admitted that disruption to passengers was “unacceptable”, but said services had improved over the last 12 months.
A spokesman said: “The main cause of delays and cancellations for passengers has been the lack of available personnel, which is a direct result of the strike action.”
Speaking on the programme of Work of Lilian Greenwood, MP, chair of the Transport Committee, has accused the DfT of “passing the buck”, adding: “it is clear that collective action has created many of the problems that passengers have faced and it is important that the dispute is resolved.
“But I’m not hearing from the DfT that they recognize their part in this, and the things that they need to do to improve the situation for passengers, who a week ago have seen their rail rates again, without seeing the improvements they were promised.
“Part of the reason they have created this difficulty has been through the creation of this mega-franchise, by not looking at the implications of trying to introduce new services on a very congested part of the railway where there was little reliable infrastructure.”‘The Regret of disruption’
GTR said Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern has been one of the UK’s largest rail franchises, the realization of nearly a million passengers per day.
Charles Horton, ceo of GTR, said: “The report identifies many of the root causes of the challenges it has faced.
“These difficulties have sometimes been higher than expected, and we regret the disruption caused to our passengers.”