Apology for Southern Rail passengers as operator reports £100 million profit
Go-Ahead Group, which jointly operates the troubled Southern rail franchise, has seen full-year profits soar 27% to £99.8 million, with its chief executive apologising to passengers for continuous disruptions.
The company, which owns 65% of Southern operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) alongside Keolis, also saw revenues rise 4.5% to £3.4 billion.
Boss David Brown said: “A large part of the role of the GTR franchise is to introduce three new train fleets and modernise working practices. During this period of change, Southern services have been disrupted by restricted network capacity, strike action and increased levels of absence.
“We apologise to the people whose lives have been affected during this time. We continue to work closely with the DfT (Department for Transport), Network Rail and other suppliers and partners to operate the best service possible while delivering the long-term improvements.”
Southern has been inundated with complaints from passengers and politicians about the travel chaos caused by a bitter dispute with unions over the role of guards and staff shortages.
But Go-Ahead, which also runs London and regional bus networks, said it plans to move ahead with introducing new on-board train supervisors, saying it is a “step in the right direction”, despite the move angering unions and triggering several strikes.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: “While Go-Ahead have been driving Britain’s biggest rail franchise into total meltdown, the cash has been sloshing through the boardroom at obscene levels. This is reward for total failure on a scale which is off the map.
“Just a fraction of these profits would be enough to keep the guards on Southern trains, keep the passengers safe and resolve the industrial dispute between RMT and the company. It is shameful that they have opted to hoard cash instead of protecting the travelling public.”
On Thursday, the Government was accused of giving a taxpayer subsidy to Southern after announcing a £20 million package to “get to grips” with delays and disruption which have plagued the company for months.
Southern was given some good news when the RMT called off a planned 24-hour walkout on September 7 in a row over ticket office closures. But the union is pressing ahead with a 48-hour stoppage on September 7 and 8 over the deadlocked guards dispute, which will cause fresh travel misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Mr Cash added: “It is also deeply cynical that Southern/Go-Ahead have brought forward this mega profit announcement so it doesn’t clash with the strike action by guards next week. They are a money-raking disaster that has turned Britain’s railways into a global laughing stock and they should be slung out and replaced by the public sector option.”
Go-Ahead added that Mr Brown has “made it clear he does not wish to be considered for an annual bonus this year and declined a salary increase” in light of the Southern chaos.