Southeastern taken over by government over ‘£25m of undeclared taxpayer cash’

Katherine Johnston (28 September, 2021)

'When trust is broken, we will act decisively' - Transport secretary Grant Shapps

48370Southeastern will come into public ownership in mid-October

Southeastern rail services are being taken over by the government after its operators ‘failed to to declare £25 million in taxpayers’ money’.

Today the Department for Transport announced that Go-Ahead was being stripped of the franchise after the ‘serious breach’, with Southeastern trains coming under public control in October this year. 

Although the money – which dates back to 2014 – has now been clawed back, the government has also threatened further action, including potential fines. It is understood the Serious Fraud Office could also launch an investigation.

Go-Ahead also operates Govia Thameslink and other transport services across London. Its chief financial officer resigned on Tuesday with immediate effect.

In a strong statement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: “There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that London South Eastern Railway have breached the trust that is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways. When trust is broken, we will act decisively.

“The decision to take control of services makes unequivocally clear that we will not accept anything less from the private sector than a total commitment to their passengers and absolute transparency with taxpayer support.

“Under the new operator, we will prioritise the punctual, reliable services passengers deserve, rebuild trust in this network, and the delivery of the reforms set out in our Plan for Rail – to build a modern railway that meets the needs of a nation.” He confirmed that the move would have ‘no impact’ on jobs. 

Reacting to the news, Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes said: “The government should now hand suburban rail services in south east London to TfL to run. 

“TfL has a proven track record of reliability. We’ve endured the failing performance of private rail operators for far too long and change is urgently needed.”

In a brief statement on Southeastern’s website explained: “The government has today announced that the operation of all Southeastern services will transfer from London South Eastern Railway (LSER) to SE Trains Limited on 17th October 2021.

“Our passengers will see no change in our day-to-day operations. 

“All tickets will remain valid after transfer and new tickets can continue to be purchased in the usual way.”

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