Southern Rail has been penalised more than £13m by the Department for Transport after 18 months of repeated disturbance due to industrial performance.
The Go-Ahead organisation will pay £13.4m for “customer improvements”, which includes £4m to fund 50 onboard executives over the next two years.
Go-Ahead also uses the Thameslink and Great Northern licenses through its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) subsidiary. It announced the £13.4m fee was “in line with the financial judgements made by management” and would hence not affect full-year financial expectation.
The company will set £7m of the payment into a fund for the DfT to designate to “projects and improvements that will directly benefit passengers”. The outstanding £2.4m will be used on “performance improvements”.
A GTR spokesman said: “We regard this as a fair outcome, which draws a line under an issue that has been hanging over the franchise for many months.
“The settlement acknowledges that the industrial action taken by the trade unions has been a major contributor to the disruption experienced by passengers in the past year.”
But the size of the penalty has been thrashed by the railway workers’ union RMT, which has been in discussion with Southern for more than 12 months.
“This pathetic response to the abject failure by Southern/GTR to deliver on their contract does not even stack up to a slap on the wrist,” said Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary.
“No wonder the company are gloating. [Transport secretary] Chris Grayling has let them off the hook big style.
“This is yet another case of the Government and their rail industry cronies investigating themselves while the services they are responsible for are a global laughing stock.”
In a message to Charles Horton, the chief executive of GTR, Mr Grayling composed: “Performance on Southern has improved dramatically since Christmas, as the disruption [of] union activity has decreased. But that performance is still not good enough.
“Passengers who depend on Southern have been badly let down. The union industrial action that has so often disrupted services is totally unjustified and must stop now. But GTR must also do better in providing services to its passengers.
“When trains are cancelled unnecessarily it can cause huge disruption. And when trains are shorter than they ought to be, it can leave already busy services unbearably crowded.”