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While Govia have been running Great Northern services, hour-long gaps have been distressingly common, yet the government is reportedly planning to award them a new contract

Two railway renationalisation campaigns have joined forces in a bid to stop the government awarding a further six-year contract to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to run Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern Rail services.

The Association of British Commuters (ABC) and Bring Back British Rail, in partnership with a further five organisations, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for legal support for their campaign. They say that the government is planning for the new contract to come into force on 1st April this year.

While these campaigns are opposed to any new private sector contracts to run rail services, they have particular objections to the contract going to GTR because the two companies that own Govia - Go Ahead and Keolis - are under investigation for an alleged £25 million fraud on another rail franchise, South Eastern, which was recently brought back into public ownership as a consequence.

See below for more information about the campaign. And note also something they haven't mentioned - but which all Palmers Green commuters will be all too aware of anyway - the shameful fact that throughout the time that they have held the contract Govia have never proved themselves capable of running a satisfactory service on Great Northern.

New legal campaign to take Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern into public ownership

A crowdfunded legal action launches today to take the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise back into public ownership. Campaign group Bring Back British Rail will challenge the government’s plans to award a new six-year contract to Govia Thameslink Railway, and demand transparency over the alleged £25 million fraud by Govia subsidiary, London and Southeastern Railway.

The action is the latest stage in Bring Back British Rail’s CrowdJustice legal fund, which had its first victory in 2018 when the East Coast Main Line was brought back into public ownership as LNER. We’re pleased to be collaborating on their new case; along with our experienced team at Devonshires Solicitors, who represented our 2017 legal challenge against the Department for Transport.

Read more about Bring Back British Rail’s legal action, and please donate if you can.

Why is this action necessary?

The Southeastern rail franchise was renationalised in October, after the Department for Transport uncovered an alleged £25 million fraud by London and Southeastern Railway (LSER). Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the government is now considering awarding a new six-year contract to Govia’s other subsidiary, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), at the end of March.

In a recent letter to the Transport Select Committee, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris implied that LSER’s actions involved long-running and active deceit since 2014. He stated that the company ‘did not act transparently and in good faith’ and ‘concealed the money owed through financial reporting over several years’. DfT civil servants began asking questions in March 2020, but even then LSER continued to ‘minimise the risk of detection by the Department’.

Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, has stated that there is ‘clear, compelling and serious evidence’ that LSER ‘breached good faith’ with the government. And yet, the Department for Transport has allowed Govia’s owning groups, Go-Ahead and Keolis, to run the fraud investigation themselves, along with Deloitte (Go-Ahead’s external auditor since 2015). The investigation has been conducted under conditions of strict commercial confidentiality and our initial legal inquiries have found that the DfT never intends to release this report to the public.

We believe the investigation is highly compromised, and it’s clear that it has already hit the rocks. The Go-Ahead Group has now admitted to ‘serious errors’ and just had to delay their accounts for the second time this year, reportedly due to Deloitte refusing to sign them off. Meanwhile, their rail operations are hanging by a thread, with trading in shares suspended, and huge losses in Germany and Norway.

A staggering 90% of the Go-Ahead Group’s revenue is guaranteed by public contracts. They are the largest bus operator in London and operate around 11% of the UK’s regional bus market. In addition to the GTR contract renewal, the Go-Ahead Group is soon set to sign new ‘Enhanced Partnership’ bus agreements with local authorities all over the UK. After receiving bus and rail bailouts totalling hundreds of millions during the covid pandemic, it is now crucial to determine whether they can be trusted with any more public money.

What happens next?

Bring Back British Rail’s legal team will shortly begin official correspondence with the Department for Transport to demand full transparency on the Southeastern investigation, and determine the extent to which owning groups, Go-Ahead and Keolis, are implicated in the alleged fraud.

They will argue that Govia, the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis should be heavily penalised for any involvement in fraudulent activities, and that public ownership is the best solution for Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern.

In the event that a new contract is awarded to Govia Thameslink Railway, the lawyers will consider whether this can be challenged by judicial review.

Source: Association of British Commuters press release 27 January 2022

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PGC Webmaster posted a reply
09 Feb 2022 20:16

The first step has been taken towards a legal challenge to a possible new contract being awarded to Govia to run Great Northern and other rail services.

A solicitor's letter to the transport secretary sent on 1st February outlines a litany of problems and concerns relating to Govia’s operation of the Southeastern and Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchises. The letter demands full transparency over the investigations into Govia’s alleged financial malpractice, as well as evidence that the Department for Transport is considering the option to bring TSGN back into public ownership instead.

To quote a couple of paragraphs from the letter:

7. In the light of the various circumstances set out above, which represent just a snapshot of recent events in the industry involving Govia, there is understandably deep concern held by our client, its supporters and the public more generally, that there is a little to no transparency as to what steps the DfT are taking to determine the nature and extent of any fraud or frauds conducted on public funds. Whilst assurances have been given that an investigation is underway within GTR / Govia / Go-Ahead / Keolis (together, “the Companies”), this investigation does not appear to be independent or transparent, nor does it appear that the findings will be made publically available either before any decision on the continuation of the TSGN franchise is made in March 2022, or at all.

8. Without robust conclusions being reached in respect of the allegations relating to the obvious financial mismanagement within the Companies (that in the best case is a serious and knowing breach of contract, but at worst a criminal fraud), it is difficult to see how the DfT can reasonably conclude that GTR / Govia is a suitable rail operator to entrust with the future of TSGN, even less that our client, its supporters and the general public can have confidence that their taxes and fares are being well spent. Unless and until the question of deliberate breach of contract and / or fraud is resolved, it would be improper for the DfT to even entertain entering into an extension of the TSGN contract with the Companies. In the event that a suitable existing rail operator is not available to take the place of GTR / Govia, it would be most appropriate for the OLR to take the role.

OLR mentioned above is the Operator of Last Resort, used by the government to run LNER and South Eastern rail services directly.

Read the full letter

Pledge to the crowdfunder raising money for the legal challenge
PGC Webmaster posted a reply
23 Mar 2022 23:18

The campaign to prevent Govia being awarded a new contract to run Great Northern and other rail services has this week sent an update to its supporters. Despite the heavy fine imposed on Govia last week for financial malpractice, the campaigners understand that the governmemt is still intending to go ahead with awarding the contract to Govia. A new legal letter spells out in detail Govia's repeated failures to operate the TSGN franchise satisfactorily.

Dear Supporter,

You may have seen reports in the media yesterday implying that the Department for Transport is due to make a decision on the future of the Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchise imminently.

Despite the fact that only last week it confirmed a £23.5 million fine to Govia for financial malpractice on its former Southeastern franchise, the DfT looks set to award the disgraced company a new six-year contract to continue running services on TSGN.

Our lawyers have today despatched a third letter to the DfT outlining a catalogue of failings by Govia and demanding that the franchise is brought back into public ownership instead.

Please help us stop the DfT in its tracks, by sharing details of this scandal on Facebook and Twitter.

With thanks and best wishes,

Ellie Harrison
Bring Back British Rail
Basil Clarke posted a reply
06 Apr 2022 14:51

By awarding a new contract to Govia, the government has made April Fools of all us long-suffering passengers.

The contract was awarded, very appropriately, on 1st April, giving Govia a contract where they bear no financial risk until 2025 with the possibility of another three years on top of that.

Even if we disregard the financial irregularities that led to Go Ahead, one of the owners of Govia, being fined and their South Eastern franchise stripped from them, we can't disregard the complete failure of Govia to provide a reliable service during the five years that they have run the Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern services.

In the words of one passenger reported in the Herts Advertiser, this is "beyond laughable". And the RMT official quoted in the Guardian was surely correct to call it a "sick joke".

See the following reports:

Govia Thameslink Railway gets extended rail contract
- Ian Visits

New rail contract award to Go-Ahead branded ‘a sick joke’ - Guardian

Thameslink/Great Northern contract extended despite commuter complaints - Herts Advertiser

Govia wins contract for Thameslink franchise despite last week’s £23.5m Southeastern fine - City A.M.

Govia's contract and its former franchise cover a huge swathe of busy railway lines between East Anglia and the south coast - see the map below.

JuliusCaf posted a reply
07 Apr 2022 07:02
Yet, some of those most inconvenienced will still vote for this shambolic party.
It defies logic!