Government takes over Southeastern train services after £25m breach

28 September 2021, 08:23 | Updated: 28 September 2021, 09:09

The government is taking over the running of Southeastern rail services
The government is taking over the running of Southeastern rail services. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

The government is taking over train operator Southeastern's services after a "serious breach" of its franchise agreement.

It promised passengers the takeover will have no impact on fares, tickets and services.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said an investigation by his department identified evidence that since October 2014, the company has not declared more than £25m of historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned.

Mr Shapps said the evidence was “compelling” that Southeastern had “breached trust”.

He promised the new operator, the government’s in-house Operator of Last Resort (OLR), will provide “punctual and reliable” services.

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Southeastern is run by Govia and operates services across south-east England, covering 180 stations in London, Kent, East Sussex and the High Speed 1 Lines.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "The days of rail franchising must now be well and truly over. Time and time again we see the private sector fail and taxpayers ride to the rescue.”

Mr Cortes called for assurances over members’ jobs, though the government promised the takeover will “have no impact upon the exceptional frontline staff” of Southeastern, and that the takeover “is no reflection on their professionalism”. It employs 4,000 people.

The takeover of services will start on 17 October.

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