Go-Ahead: Southern Railway and Thameslink operator’s share price soars despite rail timetable chaos

Business News

Southern Railway and Thameslink operator Go-Ahead reported a 6.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits for the year, despite widespread timetable chaos that caused disruption for millions of its customers.

The news sent Go-Ahead’s share price soaring as much as 16 per cent on Thursday morning. 

Go-Ahead expects to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to passengers affected by a disastrous switchover to new timetables in May.

Tens of thousands of customers will be contacted over the coming weeks about claiming compensation for delays and cancellations, the company said.

The group, which also operates the Great Northern and Southeastern franchises said it had already contacted around 30,000 customers since the start of last week.

Chief executive David Brown apologised for the “significant disruption” but said the issues were not limited to franchises run by Go-Ahead. 

“In Thameslink and Great Northern, collective industry failures over the timetable change resulted in a period of service performance which was severely below our expectations and those of our customers,” he said. 

He added that an interim timetable has been in place since mid-July, providing a “much improved” train service.

The group warned it could face a government penalty or even see franchises terminated because the severity of the problems meant it had missed some contractual targets.

Despite the disruption, Go-Ahead’s pre-tax profits rose 6.5 per cent to £145.7m for the year to 30 June.

Underlying earnings in the group’s bus division rose marginally to £91.4m from £90.7m a year earlier, while operating profits in the rail business slumped 25.7 per cent to £44.5m, largely because of the loss of the London Midland franchise.

Underlying operating profits fell 9.8 to £135.9m on revenues down 0.6 per cent to £3.5bn.

Go-Ahead said it was adapting to passengers’ changing transport needs with new products such as its on-demand minibuses which have been trialled recently in Oxford.

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