Southern Rail operator Go-Ahead, announced a £99.8million profit today, less than 24-hours after the government pledged a £20million taxpayers handout to their failing Govia Thameslink franchise.
South west London MPs Tom Brake and Steve Reed immediately suggested soaring company profits should be used to compensate passengers.
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington has repeated his call for Southern to be ‘sacked’ over the franchise’s poor performance.
Speaking to SW Londoner today, he said he expected Southern passengers would be shocked to hear that whilst they make do with appalling services, the operator has made a tidy profit.
“The only thing to do with profits is to hand them over in compensation to Southern’s passengers,” he said.
Steve Reed, Labour MP for Croydon North agreed, he said: “Coming a day after the government handed £20m to failing Southern Rail, these profits are a slap in the face to my constituents who have to suffer regular delays and cancellations.”
Southern, the poorest performing railway in the country, introduced a revised summer timetable earlier this year, axing 341 daily services, leading to disruption and complaints from passengers.
Of the axed services 119 trains, nearly all in London, are to be reinstated from Monday 5 September with further services to be added as train crew become available.
However, the latest 48-hour strike, relating to a long-running dispute with its guards looks set to go ahead on 7 and 8 September, bringing further misery and disruption to commuters.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Commuters will not understand why the government rejected my offer to send a specialist TfL team in to Southern to sort this mess out for free and instead has rewarded a failing franchise with more money and more time.”
He described Southern Rail as an ‘embarrassment’ to London last month.
Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham, was quick to point out that the company could afford to fund improvements themselves, rather than relying on a multi-million pound subsidy.
He said: “Instead of taking money from the government’s £20m package, Southern’s owners should give it back and use their undeserved riches.”
A Southern spokesman said: “Southern made zero profits last year. All our income went into delivering the service.
“The profits figure being reported relates to other businesses owned by our parent company, primarily the bus division.
“Southern is not expected to make a profit in the coming year either.”
An online petition started by Mr Brake last month has attracted 2,432 signatures so far.
Mr Umunna launched his own online petition today calling on the government to terminate the Southern rail franchise immediately.
He is also calling for suburban rail services to be brought under the control of TfL immediately instead of waiting for the Govia Thameslink franchise to be renewed in 2021.
It is estimated that one in five of all rail passengers use Southern’s routes.
Picture courtesy of Joshua Brown, with thanks