Transport boss on £2.1m a year apologises for poor train services, as profits soar

Southeastern and Southern rail operator Go-Ahead announces half-year profits of £52.1m

It’s no secret that the UK has one of the most shambolic rail networks in Europe. We pay the most, endure horribly crowded services and have to contend with regular delays. Meanwhile, the companies operating our rail services are growing their profits.

One of the firms behind Britain’s ailing railways is the transport goliath Go-Ahead Group.

As the firm today announced very fruitful half-year results indeed, senior executives took the opportunity to apologise to commuters for the wretched service its various rail franchises deliver.

These services include Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.

A recent survey by Which? identified the three lines with the lowest customer satisfaction levels as being Southeastern, Thameslink and Great Northern - all run by Go-Ahead.

Part of the problem has been the continuing work to upgrade London Bridge Station. This tax-payer funded upgrade, costing £6.5bn, aims to provide greater capacity to the central London station, but the process has caused countless delays and cancellations.

But it is not just London Bridge causing problems. Last year Southern was found to be Britain’s “least punctual service”, and it subsequently emerged that conductors had fined commuters for standing in First Class, despite the train being so overcrowded they could not stand elsewhere.

Southern Rail train

Sorry, but it’s not our fault

According to the Financial Times, Go-Ahead chairman Andrew Allner said: “We are working very hard with our industry partners to improve our service for passengers but many of the factors leading to underperformance are outside our direct control.

“Once these issues are addressed and investment projects complete I am confident we will see a dramatically improved service for passengers.”

Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown added: “We share the frustration of customers who have recently experienced disruption to their journeys due to these improvement works and, together with Network Rail, we are committed to minimising the impact on passengers.”

Profits on track

While the group’s train services succeed at providing miserable services for customers, Go-Ahead’s profits are on track and going full-steam ahead.

Go-Ahead Group reported a 16.6% rise in pre-tax profits in the six months ending December 26, to £52.1m, with sales of £1.7bn.

According to the FT, profits in its rail business rose 62% to £32.9m from £20.3m on revenues that were up 8.1% at £1.2bn.

Surely with Go-Ahead’s expanding profits, they could afford to put on a few more coaches?

Well, perhaps not given their chief executive’s salary. Brown’s remuneration is an astonishing £2.16m a year.

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