Go-Ahead’s overseas expansion plans have been dealt a blow after German rail officials launched a review into poorly performing services.
The FTSE 250 company, which was subject to a torrent of criticism in 2018 for its poorly performing services in Britain, has hit back at claims it had already been stripped of a line serving Stuttgart over poor performance.
Go-Ahead admitted it had not delivered “a consistently stable operation” in Stuttgart. But the operator said that contrary to local media reports last week, there had been “no emergency award or termination of a transport contract by the state of Baden-Württemberg”.
The local ministry of transport is exploring several options, which could include “a completely different solution”, it added.
一本道理不卡一二三区The spectre of being stripped of the network will come as a blow to Go-Ahead, which, like many of its UK rivals, has sought to take advantage of the liberalisation of Europe’s railways.
一本道理不卡一二三区The EU agreed a regulatory framework in 2016 to open up train networks to foreign operators from 2020. Overseas operators such as Italy’s Trenitalia and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn have operated in Britain for several years.
Go-Ahead runs rail franchises in Germany and Norway as well as bus routes in Ireland and Singapore.
一本道理不卡一二三区National Express also runs trains in Germany. It quit the UK rail market in January 2017, having once been the country’s biggest operator.
一本道理不卡一二三区Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains, which was kicked off the railways in 2019 following a row with the Government over rail pensions, last year said it was interested in entering the Spanish market.
一本道理不卡一二三区Expansion overseas for UK firms is not without significant challenges, however. In Germany, for instance, a new operator must hire new train drivers. Those previously employed by state operator Deutsche Bahn are either reallocated or often find jobs elsewhere.
一本道理不卡一二三区Go-Ahead said that its Stuttgart franchise had been hit by “structural staff shortages”. Matters had been made worse by the late delivery of trains “Unfortunately, some of these measures have [had] an impact on adherence to the timetables, [which] Go-Ahead regrets,” Go-Ahead’s German arm said.
Some may draw parallels with Go-Ahead’s historical performance at home. Govia Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern were at the centre of a bungled overhaul of timetables in May.
Prior to that the Southern network suffered at the hands of industrial action, while Govia Thameslink operations were hit by the rebuilding of London Bridge.
The shortcomings forced Chris Grayling, the former Transport Secretary, to cap franchise profits.
However, Go-Ahead’s franchises staged a dramatic turnaround over the last 18 months.
一本道理不卡一二三区Govia Thameslink was awarded the title of Britain’s “most punctual” network in December 2019.
Britain’s railways are currently running under an emergency regime which leaves the taxpayer on the hook for an estimated £900m a month to keep services running until September.
一本道理不卡一二三区With experts predicting that many workers will shun the daily commute, industry bosses expect franchise agreements to be ripped up and renegotiated. Some bosses expect the emergency measures to be in place for up to 18 months.