Troubled UK railway operator Southern will be given a helping hand under plans announced by the Secretary of State for Transport today.
Chris Grayling confirmed that a £20 million fund has been established to address some of the shortcomings that have affected the company’s ability to provide a reliable service to passengers.
The new fund is intended to establish more rapid response teams, to speed up the replacement of worn-out infrastructure, and to provide extra staff at key stations such as Gatwick and East Croydon to ensure that trains are despatched on time.
Overseeing the new fund will be a new project board that will be headed up by Chris Gibb, previously chief operating officer of Virgin Trains and now a non-executive Network Rail board member.
Chris is no stranger to such a role, Virgin Trains once seconded him to Network Rail for six months to improve reliability on the southern end of the West Coast Main Line.
Already earmarked out of the new fund is expenditure on the new rapid response teams (£2m), accelerated train maintenance (£2.5m), extra signal supervisors (£0.8m) and minimising delays caused by bridge strikes (£0.9m).
However, the new measures will do nothing to put right Southern’s poor industrial relations record with the RMT which has caused much disruption for passengers over recent months.
As Chris Grayling said when launching the scheme: “I now urge the industry, the train operating company and unions to work together to improve services for passengers.”