UK Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald has urged the government to strip rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) of its franchise after the failure of its third timetable in two months.
Earlier this week, the operator launched a new timetable in a bid to restore smooth services following a long period of train delays and cancellations caused by the schedule overhaul introduced at the end of May.
However, on its first working day, 423 cancellations were registered, generating further discontent among commuters and the MPs whose constituencies were most affected.
Speaking to the House of Commons on Wednesday, McDonald called GTR a “disgraceful company” and asked what steps should be taken to interrupt its contract. He said: “Enough is enough – the government must stop pussyfooting around and strip Govia of their contract without delay.
“The government and rail industry have failed passengers both on GTR and across the north of England.”
McDonald added that there was no need to wait for the results of a review into the timetable chaos, as it “won’t tell us what we don’t know today”.
The review in question was launched by Transport Minister Jo Johnson and the Department for Transport last week to “establish whether GTR have met and continue to meet their contractual obligations in the planning and delivery of the May timetable”.
Johnson said: “As part of this process, we are looking at whether GTR have breached their contracts and we won’t hesitate to take tough action against them if they are found to have been at fault.”
On Wednesday, McDonald urged Johnson to “advance notice of any cuts to transport investment that he plans to sneak out on the sly before or during the summer recess” and criticised Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for failing to attend the meeting.
McDonald’s speech was largely welcomed by MPs. Many hit out at GTR, which operates the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchises, for causing disruption for their constituents.
Labour MP for Nottingham South and chair of the transport committee Lilian Greenwood said: “GTR’s third attempt to implement a more robust and reliable timetable has understandably been met with incredulity by those passengers who are still experiencing more cancelled services, more confusion and dangerously overcrowded stations and platforms.”
Earlier in June, the franchise announced it would compensate affected commuters and launch an inquiry into what caused the initial mayhem. However, the compensation scheme was largely criticised as it does not include travellers who hold monthly season tickets.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: “Passengers and staff alike will be rightly angry if the government make yet another effort to boot the Govia Thameslink scandal into the long grass as they head off for the sunbeds.”