Belfast Telegraph

Southern operator expecting to take a hit over strike-hit rail service

Southern Railway operator Go-Ahead laid bare the financial cost of crippling strike action as it warned over its full-year results for the train business.

The transport giant, which runs the Southern service through its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) arm, said it would take a hit from the bitter industrial dispute as it faces surging costs, while it revealed half-year passenger revenues on the franchise were expected to fall around 4%.

It said: "The GTR team continues to work towards a resolution to these issues and provide the best possible service to customers under the circumstances.

"In doing so, we expect to incur additional costs in this financial year."

Southern services have been severely disrupted this week after a 48-hour strike by drivers in the Aslef union.

It ended at midnight, but services are expected to remain badly disrupted on Thursday, while the drivers will continue with an overtime ban and will strike again on Friday unless there is a breakthrough to a row over driver-only trains.

Go-Ahead said it was in talks with the Department for Transport over financial claims relating to the Aslef action.

But it said the extra costs of the strike action in the GTR business, together with higher costs of bid work in overseas markets, mean its full-year expectations for the rail division are "slightly below" its previous forecast.

Transport analyst Joe Spooner at Jefferies estimates Go-Ahead is facing a further £3 million hit from the ongoing strike action.

All of Southern's 2,242 weekday services were cancelled on Wednesday, causing more misery for its 300,000 passengers.

The RMT is embroiled in a separate dispute over changes to the role of guards which has led to a series of strikes in recent months.

The guards are due to stage another 48-hour walkout next week, and again over the New Year.

Go-Ahead's Govia rail arm is run as a partnership with French group Keolis, which owns a 35% stake in the business.

Govia is the largest rail operation in the UK and also runs the Southeastern and London Midland franchises.

Go-Ahead said revenues were set to rise by around 2.5% at Southeastern and 5.5% at London Midland for the six months to December 31.

Go-Ahead said aside from the Southern woes, its bus business is on track, with first half revenues expected to rise by around 1%.