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Rail chief Horton resigns over timetable chaos

The chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway said that with leadership comes responsibility.

Charles Horton is to resign as chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) following months of controversy over delays and cancellations to services.

In a letter to staff, he said the company had been going through some “very challenging” times in recent weeks and it was “the right time to hand leadership of GTR to a new pair of hands”.

Some 13% of GTR trains were either cancelled or significantly delayed in the first two weeks after new timetables were introduced on May 20.

Thameslink and Great Northern services were particularly hit, with some passengers left stranded on platforms for several hours.

Mr Horton said: “In my view, this was an industry-wide failure of the timetabling process. But with leadership comes responsibility and so I feel it is only right that I step down.

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Charles Horton has announced he is resigning (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Before my departure in a few weeks’ time, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure a smooth handover as we work to put our railway back on track and give our passengers a reliable service once again.”

Mr Horton will remain in post for a “short period” to oversee the development of a temporary timetable, a spokesman for GTR’s parent company, Go-Ahead, said.

Industry sources stressed that Mr Horton is not taking sole responsibility for the disruption, with Network Rail also blamed for delays in approving timetables.

Passenger groups, trade unions and politicians welcomed the resignation announcement.

Martin Abrams, of the Association of British Commuters, said the news was “the absolute least that passengers who use Govia Thameslink Railway could expect”.

He added that Mr Horton may be “being used as a fall guy” for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who is “ultimately responsible for the debacle”.

The system is beyond redemption Manuel Cortes

Emily Ketchin, founder of campaign group Harpenden Thameslink Commuters, said train timetables are “a lottery”, adding: “Customers need to see leadership and a rapid improvement to correct the errors that Mr Horton is leaving behind.”

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said he would “shed no tears” for Mr Horton.

He added that Mr Grayling should also resign because “the system is beyond redemption”.

Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, said it was “about time” that Mr Horton quit. “Finally someone is taking responsibility,” he added.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Clearly the disruption that passengers have experienced following the recent timetabling changes has been unacceptable and it is right that the industry takes responsibility for its performance.”

The DfT is being investigated by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in relation to the chaos.

The rail regulator is analysing the department’s role in “managing risks around major network changes”, as well as the actions of train operators and Network Rail.

A spokesman for Go-Ahead said the firm would not comment on Mr Horton’s remuneration following his resignation.

It emerged on Friday that Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne and chief finance officer Jeremy Westlake will not take their annual bonus for the last financial year due to the disruption.

Mr Carne, who was awarded a CBE in last week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, is leaving Network Rail later this year.

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