Govia Thameslink Railway - A

Govia Thameslink Railway - A
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is a train operating company that operates the TSGN rail franchise in England. Within the franchise, GTR runs trains under the sub-brands Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express. GTR is a subsidiary of Govia, which is itself a joint venture between the British Go-Ahead Group (65%) and French company Keolis (35%).
The franchise was awarded, after repeated delays, to Govia Thameslink Railway on 23 May 2014. On 14 September 2014, GTR took over operations for the prior franchisee First Capital Connect, during July 2015, both Southern and Gatwick Express operations were integrated into GTR. This change made it the largest rail franchise in terms of passengers, staff and fleet in the UK. The franchise has an unusual structure involving a management contract that sees all fare revenues going straight to the Department for Transport (DfT), which in turn pays GTR fixed amounts that add up to £8.9 billion across its first seven years of operation.
GTR introduced several fleets of new trains, including the Class 387, Class 700, and Class 717. In terms of infrastructure, Govia planned to invest £50 million into the 239 stations it manages to improve accessibility, replace information systems, and increase staffing hours, alongside general redevelopment work. Various measures at increasing capacity and improving service were also planned, such as the doubling of overnight Thameslink services, half-hourly King's Lynn to London services, and extending the Oyster card network.
As early as June 2016, GTR was facing public criticism from officials over its performance, including calls from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for it to be stripped of the franchise. In May 2018, the company introduced a new timetable which included the first regular services through the Canal Tunnels and to other new destinations previously not served by Thameslink, however, an interim timetable that ran fewer trains had to be adopted due to frequent service issues. In response to the significant decline of passenger travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, GTR considerably curtailed its services by mid-2020. GTR is one of several train operators that are experiencing severe disruption of services due to the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes.
Govia Thameslink Railway History
Govia Thameslink Railway Background
During 2006, the Thameslink and Great Northern services were merged into a single franchise due to the upcoming Thameslink Programme. In 2012, the British government announced that services of First Capital Connect, Southern (with Gatwick Express) and some Southeastern routes would be merged into a single Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise (TSGN). The Invitation to Tender was to have been issued in October 2012, with the successful bidder announced during Spring 2013 and TSGN originally due to start in September 2013. However, following the collapse of the InterCity West Coast re-franchising process, it was decided to enact a temporary freeze on all franchising competitions until January 2013.
In January 2013, the government announced that it would extend the existing contract through to March 2014, and that it intended to negotiate with FirstGroup to operate the franchise under a management contract for up to two years. In March 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that the franchise would be extended again to run up to 13 September 2014, and that the future franchise would be a management-style contract due to the level of investment and change on the route. During September 2013, a revised invitation to tender was issued. On 23 May 2014, it was announced that Govia Thameslink Railway had been awarded the franchise.
On 14 September 2014, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) took over services from First Capital Connect, at the commencement of operations, it served 122 stations and operated a fleet of 226 trains. The separate Thameslink and Great Northern brands were maintained upon the GTR takeover. During December 2014, full control was taken of the Sevenoaks Thameslink service, previously operated jointly with Southeastern. During July 2015, both Southern and Gatwick Express became a part of GTR, making it the largest rail franchise in terms of passengers, staff and fleet in the UK.
The franchise has an unusual structure: it is a management contract where fare income does not go to GTR. Under their original contract, the Department for Transport pays GTR £8.9 billion over the first seven-year period and receives all revenue. Consequently, the company carries less revenue risk. This form of franchise was chosen because of long-term engineering works anticipated around London, which would be a significant challenge to organise within the normal form of franchise.
Govia Thameslink Railway Changes and Disruptions
  • During December 2015, GTR announced that the majority of its ticket prices would be frozen, and that the average fare rise for the coming year would be only 0.8%.
  • In June 2016, amongst criticism of the performance of its services, Go-Ahead warned of lower than anticipated profits on the franchises, leading to 18% drop in the Go-Ahead share price. Passengers had previously rated its Thameslink service as the worst in the country. Only 20% of Southern trains arrived on time in the year from April 2015 to March 2016, and there was an ongoing industrial dispute over driver-only operated trains.
  • On 12 July 2016, after 15% of Southern services were cancelled for a period of weeks to improve service reliability, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for GTR to be stripped of the franchise. On 15 July 2016, citing the issues, Rail Minister Claire Perry resigned from her position.
  • In response to the significant decline of passenger travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, GTR considerably curtailed its services by mid-2020. Between 30 March 2020 and 3 April 2022, Gatwick Express services were suspended.
  • In March 2022, following changes made due to COVID-19, the DfT gave GTR a direct-award contract expiring on 1 April 2028.
GTR is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades. Its workers are amongst those who have voted in favour of taking industrial action due to a dispute over pay and working conditions. GTR is only capable of operating a very minimal timetable on any of the planned dates for the strikes due to the number of staff involved.
Govia Thameslink Railway Overview
Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern
14 September 2014 – 1 April 2028
Main Region(s):
South East England
Greater London
East Anglia
Stations Operated: 238
Parent Company:
(Go-Ahead Group 65%, Keolis 35%)
Reporting Mark: GN, GX, SN, TL
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