Govia, the Train Operating Company (TOC) responsible for a large network of services in London and the South East of the UK, awarded £62.3m ($79m) in dividends to shareholders in 2023. 

The figure, revealed in its latest financial filings, was awarded with approval from the UK Department for Transport and Govia’s own board. 

Govia runs four network franchises: Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express. 

The payment came despite recent challenges to the UK rail sector, including ongoing industrial action and widespread passenger dissatisfaction. 

Govia’s three main shareholders are Kinetic Group (an Australian bus company) and Globalvia (a Spanish transport infrastructure company) and Keolis (a subsidiary of the French state-owned rail provider SNCF). 

Govia is a joint venture between Keolis and Go-Ahead Group, which was delisted from the London Stock Exchange in 2022 as it was bought by Kinetic and Globalvia. 

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By GlobalData

The company defended the payout, saying it was “proud” of its services. 

“We are proud of the service provided… which carries 850,000 passengers a day and accounts for nearly a fifth of all rail journeys in the UK,” a spokesperson said. 

In the period covered by the latest company filing, the year to 31 March 2023, Govia Thameslink Railway made an operating profit of £32m ($40m), increased from £23m ($29m) the previous period. That is despite the company’s On Time Performance Measure dropping from 74.8% in 2022 to just 68.4% in 2023. 

It is not the first time the TOC has courted controversy. In 2018 it was fined £15m ($19m) and was threatened with francise removal for a year because its timetable changes caused such widespread commuter chaos. 

And in 2022 Govia’s London and South Eastern Railway was fined £23.5m for “breaches… of its obligation to act reasonably and in good faith” regarding its franchise agreement to run the lines. 

The Association of British Commuters described this as “long-running financial malpractice” at the TOC.