The main line train service between Hastings and Charing Cross, and all other services currently forming the South-eastern rail network, will be run from next week as a nationalised operation by an Operator of Last Resort controlled by the Department for Transport (DfT).  

Government transport secretary Grant Shapps announced at the end of last month that Southeastern, which was one of a number of franchises run by private company Go-Ahead, had failed to declare more than £25m of taxpayer subsidy which should have been returned, and were “in serious breach” of their obligation to conduct the business in “good faith”. Further investigations are being conducted, and reports have suggested that the matter is
to be referred to the Serious Fraud Office, though the DfT have not confirmed this. In the meantime Go-Ahead have been stripped of the franchise.

The company have acknow-ledged that “mistakes have been made”, and issued a “sincere apology” to the DfT. They say they have repaid the missing money and are “working constructively [with them] towards a settlement”.

The RMT rail union was quick to call for full railway nationalisation. General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “It’s time to put the rest of Britain’s failing private rail operations out of their misery, cut out the middleman and build a public railway that’s fit for a green, post-Covid future.”

It is doubtful whether travellers on the Hastings line will see any significant short term changes, however. All rail franchises have in practice been heavily subsidised over the last 18 months, with passenger numbers – particularly of commuters – still decimated by the impact of Covid-19.

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