BELEAGUERED Southern Rail could be taken into public ownership under plans being considered by ministers, rail experts said on Wednesday night.
The Department for Transport is said to be considering a range of options for the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) run franchise including the temporary nationalisation of Southern, according to industry insiders Rail Business Intelligence magazine.
Several Tory MPs said yesterday that they backed taking the service into public control despite Downing Street claiming that there were “no plans” for renationalising Southern.
East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton said: “Constituents are so desperate that we really do need to get this situation resolved.
“If that involves temporarily bringing it into government control while the situation is sorted out, so be it.”
Southern Rail has been branded “Britain’s worst railway” after a string of poor performance records.
A Transport Focus survey this week revealed that Southern had the lowest passenger satisfaction rating in the country of 65 per cent.
GTR claims performance issues are due to the effects of industrial action — a so-called force majeure — meaning that they are not in breach of their contract, which is currently being reviewed by the DfT.
But RBI magazine claims that the department’s plans have their own codename and that they have identified an interim managing director.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash blasted: “Instead of dragging this farce out any longer the government should now do the decent thing, pull the plug on the GTR contract, take the lines under public control and draw a line under this shambles that shames Britain’s railways.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald backed calls for the renationalisation of Southern Rail and demanded it be stripped of the franchise.
He said: “It is wrong that passenger fares and taxpayer subsidy that should be used to improve services and hold down prices are siphoned off to fill the coffers of train operating companies who are providing a disgraceful service.
“Private rail isn’t working: It’s time for the Tories to admit defeat and take Southern back under public control as a public service.”
A Department of Transport spokesman told the Star: “There are no plans to strip GTR of the franchise. This is pure speculation.”
He said that the department continues to monitor the performance of all rail franchises including GTR.