GTR boss resigns after weeks of timetable chaos and many months of rail misery for Brighton and Hove commuters
The chief executive of GTR, which runs Southern Rail and Thameslink, has resigned this morning after weeks of chaos triggered by a new timetables.
A wholesale revamp of services on the Thameslink line was meant to help solve the problems which had dogged the Brighton mainline for more than two years now – but instead, a shortage of trained drivers led to the cancellation of dozens of trains.
In a letter to staff today, Mr Horton blamed the problems on an “industry-wide failure” but added he felt stepping down was the right thing to do.
He wrote: “As we all know, the company has been going through some very challenging times in recent weeks and despite enormous amounts of work by so many people, the implementation of the new timetable has not been as successful as any of us would have wished.
“In my view, this was an industry-wide failure of the timetabling process. But with leadership comes responsibility and so I feel it is only right that I step down.
“Before my departure in a few weeks’ time, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure a smooth handover as we work to put our railway back on track and give our passengers a reliable service once again.
“Finally, I would like to say that I am very proud of all you GTR colleagues. Our mission is the most challenging on the entire railways and I believe that in time the changes we are making will come to be recognised as a turning point which began to turn around the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern routes after years of under-investment.
“I am very grateful for your support during my time as Chief Executive and I know that with your dedication to the job in hand, you will meet the challenges ahead.”
David Brown, group chief executive of GTR’s parent company, Go-Ahead, said: “I would like to thank Charles for his hard work with Govia for the past 15 years.
“Under often challenging conditions, he has built a team to deliver the largest railway change programme for decades, on a franchise that is not only the UK’s biggest, but which has also has seen the highest passenger growth.
“We are committed to working with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to address recent problems and to deliver a reliable, punctual service for passengers.”
The RMT union today repeated its calls for GTR to be stripped of the franchise and the service returned to public ownership.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “For well over two years now RMT members fighting to defend safety and access have been subjected to abuse and hostility under the regime led by Charles Horton.
“Mr Horton may now have gone but the rotten franchise he was steering remains in place and no change at the top will alter that. This whole basket case operation is a failure on every level.
“The Horton resignation opens the door for the this sorry chapter to be brought to a close and that means sweeping GTR away and returning the services to public ownership with safety , access and quality the guiding priorities.”