The private company that used to run the Southeastern train routes that stretched across south-east London has admitted “serious failings” after being stripped of the franchise by the government.
Go-Ahead Group lost the routes after failing to pay back £25m in taxpayer money that it owed. The failure was discovered in contract talks with the government.
The money was left over from the fee that the government paid to the company, which it passes onto investors in the High Speed 1 route that goes out to Kent. Left over money was supposed to go back into public hands – but never did in this case.
The company said it now expected to pay a fine and has apologised to the Department for Transport (DfT) for the mistakes, which took place “over several years”.
Go-Ahead had the franchise taken away from its operator London South-Eastern Railway (LSER) after the mistakes were discovered. The routes were transferred to SE Trains Limited, a subsidiary of the government’s publicly-owned railway operator. Go-Ahead’s chief financial officer also resigned.
Go-Ahead said: “Serious errors were made by LSER with respect to its engagement with the DfT over several years.
“In particular, the group accepts that, by failing to notify the DfT of certain overpayments or monies due to the DfT, LSER breached contractual obligations. Accordingly, the group has apologised to the DfT.”
Southeastern services run from central London, including London Bridge, out through Southwark and other parts of south-east London, into Kent and Sussex.