Crisis-hit Southern Rail’s operator has revealed soaring profits just hours after taxpayers forked out £20m for a delays ‘hit squad’.
MPs voiced their rage after Go-Ahead Group, owns 65% of Southern operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), released the figures ahead of the morning commute.
Its chief executive apologised for months of disruptions after Tory ministers were forced to set up a £20m panel to “get to grips” with the situation.
But today the firm announced full-year profits were up 27% to £99.8 million.
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said the news would be “hard for passengers to take this morning as they struggle with their journeys”.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: “While Go-Ahead have been driving Britain’s biggest rail franchise into total meltdown, the cash has been sloshing through the boardroom at obscene levels.
“This is reward for total failure on a scale which is off the map.”
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, whose south London constituency is served by the stricken network, said Southern must be stripped of its franchise.
“Instead of taking money from Govt’s £20m package Southern’s owners should give it back & use their undeserved riches,” he added.
His colleague David Lammy wrote: “Totally absurd that @SouthernRailUK profits soar to £99m whilst delivering a truly shocking service to customers.”
Southern rail operators profits up 27% on last year. Will be hard for passengers to take this morning as they struggle with their journeys.
Southern, which runs many London routes and trains to Brighton, has been inundated with complaints about travel chaos.
Much of the crisis was caused by a bitter dispute with the RMT over plans to change the role of train guards.
RMT union members walked out for three days claiming Southern’s plans to hand the job of opening doors from conductors to drivers would put passengers in danger.
The union plans another 48-hour stoppage on September 7 and 8, next Wednesday and Thursday.
Mr Cash added today: “Just a fraction of these profits would be enough to keep the guards on Southern trains, keep the passengers safe and resolve the industrial dispute between RMT and the company.
“It is shameful that they have opted to hoard cash instead of protecting the travelling public.
“It is also deeply cynical that Southern/Go-Ahead have brought forward this mega profit announcement so it doesn’t clash with the strike action by guards next week.
“They are a money-raking disaster that has turned Britain’s railways into a global laughing stock and they should be slung out and replaced by the public sector option.”
Go-Ahead Group chief executive David Brown, whose firm also runs London and regional bus networks, said: “A large part of the role of the GTR franchise is to introduce three new train fleets and modernise working practices.
“During this period of change, Southern services have been disrupted by restricted network capacity, strike action and increased levels of absence.
“We apologise to the people whose lives have been affected during this time. We continue to work closely with the DfT (Department for Transport), Network Rail and other suppliers and partners to operate the best service possible while delivering the long-term improvements.”
Yesterday Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted a failure in the Tory privatisation model by saying the £20m crisis squad should address “a joined-up approach to running the train and tracks”.
Trains are run by private firms while tracks are run by state-owned Network Rail, formerly Railtrack.
Former Tory Transport Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the system was a “sorry mess” and a “mistake” when it was set up.
“How can you expect someone to run a railway service if they have no direct responsibility to deal with the track on which the trains run?” he added.
Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn have both vowed to renationalise the railways if they become Prime Minister.
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