Government 'considering taking control of Southern rail franchise'
The Government is considering taking direct control of the rail franchise which includes Southern Railway, it has been claimed.
Rail Business Intelligence magazine said the Department for Transport was preparing a number of options, ranging from splitting off Southern from Govia Thameslink Railway, to a complete "managed exit" to take direct control of the entire franchise until a new contract could be let.
The plan has its own codename and a potential interim managing director has been identified, said the magazine.
The news came as talks continued between Aslef and Southern to try to resolve a row over driver only trains, one of the disputes which has affected services for several months, as well as staff shortages and other problems.
The talks started a week ago, but neither side has commented on whether any progress is being made.
A small number of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern went on strike on Wednesday and will walk out again on Friday.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Instead of dragging this farce out any longer the Government should now do the decent thing, pull the plug on the GTR contract, take the lines under public control and draw a line under this shambles that shames Britain's railways.
"As part of that process they should get round the table with the union and reach a genuine and lasting negotiated settlement to the ongoing guards safety dispute.
"Transport Secretary Chris Grayling should stop pussy-footing about, get his act together and get Southern/GTR off the tracks before more damage is done."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said there were no plans to strip Govia of its franchise, describing the report as "pure speculation".
Manual Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "Anyone who uses either Southern or Thameslink knows that Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) shouldn't be allowed to run a bath never mind train companies.
"I spoke at a meeting at Burgess Hill earlier this week where the overwhelming consensus was for the Government to sack GTR immediately.
"I hope this will now happen and for once, failing Grayling won't chicken out - but I won't be holding my breath."