Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on how the Tories have suppressed a highly critical report on the failures of their government over the commuter chaos on Southern, and why some of the report’s recommendations may already have been implemented
Just like many trains on the London to Brighton line every day, a crucial report into the rail chaos suffered by Croydon commuters has been … delayed.
And now commuter groups are accusing DaFT, the Department for Transport, and the Tory government of deliberately suppressing the Gibb Report until after the General Election because it is political “dynamite”.
The axing of overnight train services between Victoria, East Croydon and other south London stations, implemented with summer timetable changes which began yesterday, could be from a recommendation of Chris Gibb, the railway specialist who was brought in last September to examine the problems on the commuter rail network.
The Association of British Commuters have been lobbying DaFT for the full publication of the Gibb Report into the management of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services since January, when the report was due to be published. But the transport secretary Chris Grayling and his Tory government has kept the report tightly under wraps now, it seems, because it could damage their election prospects in a number of key seats in the south-east.
Times reporter Graeme Paton has written that the Gibb Report is highly critical of the government’s role in the Southern Rail crisis. “GTR and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite,” Paton reported a source as saying.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, one of the areas worst affected by the commuter chaos, has called the decision to withhold the Gibb Report as “deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace”.
In their own news report at the weekend, ABC wrote: “Chris Gibb is the star railwayman brought in to fix the problems on Southern Rail back in September 2016, so it is outrageous that the government refuse to release this report when by doing so they could finally explain to the public why the franchise has gone so badly wrong.
“In the meantime, MPs like Chris Philp…” the Tory MP for Croydon South who at one point was calling for Southern’s services to be renationalised and handed into the safe keeping of Transport for London, “… still try to push the agenda of anti-strike laws in advance of the General Election.”
Of themselves, the timetable changes to overnight services, in order to perform essential maintenance, may not be a bad thing. ABC compared the Southern timetable changes to similar changes implemented to the West Coast Mainline in 2012: they are very similar to what Gibb recommended on that occasion.
What is causing some concern is that, while the rail operators say that they are due to review the withdrawn services at the end of the year, the timetable changes – with no trains from Victoria to East Croydon and other stations after 00.05 from Sunday to Thursday – have a look of permanence about them, as no replacement bus services have been arranged, as is normally the case with temporary changes to scheduled services.
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