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Southeastern renationalised after £25m ‘contract breach’

THE Department for Transport is to renationalise Southeastern by transferring the contract to the Operator of Last Resort. It is the third former franchise to be taken back under full public control.

The DfT says Southeastern, which is owned by Govia, did not declare over £25 million of taxpayers’ money. This amounted to a ‘significant breach of the franchise agreement, undermining trust.’

An investigation had found evidence that since October 2014 Southeastern’s company London & South Eastern Railway Ltd had not declared over £25 million of ‘historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned’.

The government says the changeover will take place on 17 October when the present contract with Govia had been due to end in any case, but the DfT has promised that there will no changes to Southeastern’s tickets, timetables or fares. No frontline jobs will be at risk.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that LSER 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.’

The DfT has already taken back the former LNER and Northern franchises, which are now run by the Operator of Last Resort, while other train operators in England are no longer franchises but contractors as a result of changes last year. Welsh railways have been renationalised as Transport for Wales, and the ScotRail contract currently owned by Abellio is to be renationalised in March. 

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