A report, commissioned by the Government and delayed for six months, has indicated that Southern Rail has been trying to run too many trains on infrastructure in a poor and unreliable condition. The report was written by Chris Gibb, a longstanding railway professional, brought in to resolve the problems in Southern. The report claims that strike action was “the primary cause for system integrity to fail” in 2016, but also that “all elements of the system have been under strain” including overcrowded stations and services, poor infrastructure, and “very tight” timetables.
Highlighted also is the “exceptionally high number of committed obligations” Govia Thameslink Railway face, decreasing the likelihood that their promises will come to fruition. A lack of staff during a period of upheaval to other parts of the network will also make it difficult, with the report stating that “the system cannot possibly work to passengers’ satisfaction with these components in this state”.
Gibb urged ministers to find £300 million extra to replace the unreliable and worn out infrastructure immediately or the Thameslink upgrade, on completion in 2018, would only be able to deliver 12 out of the 24 promised trains an hour.
The Department for Transport has been accused by campaigners of suppressing the report, which was believed to be ready for publication in early April. A spokesman for the Department responded that the report was published “as soon as practically possible” after the general election as it is a very technical report which required assessment by a number of bodies. The report also highlights an unusually high level of sick leave. A Department spokesperson said that despite other challenges faced by the network, the report makes it “absolutely clear that passengers would have had reliable services had staff come to work as normal”.