GOVIA THAMESLINK Railway’s Southern arm has removed many overnight services on the Brighton main line from 21 May. Modern Railways understands the move follows a recommendation in the report by Chris Gibb into the franchise and performance on the Brighton line.

Mr Gibb, a non-executive director of Network Rail, was commissioned by the Department for Transport last September to create an improvement plan for performance on Southern services. It is understood DfT received his report in December, but its publication has been deferred until after the General Election on 8 June.

The report covers issues including timetabling and co-ordination with Network Rail over engineering work, and proposes the closure of two tracks of the Brighton main line overnight for five nights of the week to allow for maintenance work. This means Southern services departing between 00.05 and 04.52 from London Victoria and return will not run in the early hours of Monday to Friday mornings. The services will be retained on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when demand is higher. Tickets will be accepted on parallel Thameslink services, which will continue to operate overnight throughout the week.

The two-track night-time closure strategy has parallels with a similar initiative on the West Coast main line when Mr Gibb was trying to drive up reliability levels during the time he was running Virgin West Coast a few years ago.

GTR says the initiative ‘will give Network Rail more time to carry out essential maintenance and improvement work overnight on the very congested Brighton main line, one of the UK’s busiest rail networks. It will also help Network Rail deliver critical elements of a £300 million improvement plan that was announced by the Government in January.’

Industry sources have indicated the Gibb report is critical of all parties involved with the GTR contract, with harsh criticism directed towards DfT and the decision to use a management contract instead of a traditional franchise agreement. Tony Miles