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London mayor calls for takeover of stricken Southern Rail

Southern train at Brighton station

London mayor Sadiq Khan wants Transport for London (TfL) to take control of the failing Govia Thameslink Railway Southern franchise.

He said that he urgently wants to put a “top team” from the local government body in charge until problems affecting services are resolved.

Kahn wants the TfL team to run Southern Rail until the government can resolve the long term problems that have led to widespread disruption for thousands of commuters.

Last week, Govia Thameslink Railway brought in an emergency timetable, cancelling 350 services a day and creating havoc for commuters. The decision followed months of delays and cancellations to services.

Khan said he believes that TfL is best placed to sort out the problems which he described as “an embarrassment to our city”. Last week, he urged the Department for Transport to take temporary control of the railway.

Now, in a letter to the new transport secretary Chris Grayling, the mayor has gone further, calling for TfL to be put in charge until the issues are resolved.

In his letter to Grayling, Khan says: “Thousands of Londoners and longer-distance commuters simply cannot get to and from work, and are understandably furious.

“There is no doubt that the franchise must now be in default, and I have previously called for your department to step in and take control.

“Notwithstanding the wider discussions on devolution, I now offer to go one step further and put my senior TfL team in charge of the GTR Southern franchise until we get a permanent resolution.”

Khan also urged the Department for Transport to work with his team on putting in place a speedier timetable for the transfer of suburban rail services to TfL to improve efficiency.

Rail challenges

This would not be the first time that a train operator has been stripped of its franchise. In 2001, Connex, the rail franchise for the south central network, was criticised for poor customer service and financial management.

The Strategic Rail Authority re-let the contract on new terms and Connex subsequently agreed to the new franchisee taking over early, having run the contract for just five of its seven years.

In 2007, GNER was stripped of the East Coast mainline franchise due to poor financial management. The franchise was then awarded to National Express East Coast.

In 2009, having taken over the franchise from GNER only two years previously, it was announced that National Express East Coast planned to default on the East Coast Mainline franchise, having failed to renegotiate the contractual terms of operation.

As a result the Department for Transport announced it would establish a publicly owned company to take over the franchise.

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