THE FOUR recommendations from Chris Gibb’s report into the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise (p84, last month) not being pursued have been revealed by the Government.
Responding to a written Parliamentary question, Jesse Norman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, confirmed that those not being taken forward were plans to review off-peak frequencies at low use stations (because a Thameslink consultation is underway), procurement of more Class 700 trains (for commercial reasons), a fares and ticketing review of Gatwick services, and the transfer of specific routes to Transport for London (which requires ‘further assessment’).
Elaborating on the point about fares and ticketing, in answer to a further written question, House of Lords Transport Minister Lord Callanan explained: ‘We cannot make changes to the Southern fares structure in isolation. Any changes will need to take a holistic view. This is due to the potential knock-on effect with other operators, such as complicating existing fares structures which would not be beneficial to passengers.’ The point specifically responds to Mr Gibb’s recommendation regarding abandoning premium pricing on the Gatwick Express for a trial period of two years.
However, a senior industry source has told Modern Railways the decision appears to be at odds with DfT’s aspiration to simplify fares: ‘I don’t believe it would complicate any fares – far from it, it would massively simplify them’. Modern Railways notes some revenue, such as the Gatwick Express premium, would be lost to DfT (which takes all the GTR revenue), but according to insiders a much simpler fares structure would probably generate more revenue and more capacity, whilst the theory expressed by some observers that the ‘complex’ fares structure puts passengers off travelling could be tested over a fixed period.
Modern Railways notes that the response fails to mention Mr Gibb’s recommendations regarding performance regimes and his proposal for the electrification of the line to Uckfield. Whilst the latter may be affected by the review by Professor Peter Hansford into ‘contestability’ in the UK rail market (p15), the plan, as outlined in the Gibb report, gained considerable traction in the light of the release by DfT of a list of the busiest trains in the UK, which included an early morning service from Uckfield.
See p66 for more on Chris Gibb’s proposals for the Uckfield line