The South Western Railway franchise could be taken into public ownership, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps issued the warning, saying that the franchise is “not sustainable in the long term” after filings showed the business lost £137m in the year to March 2019. Some fear that the franchise could fail financially by the end of the year.
South Western could become the latest in a series of franchises to be taken into public hands. It is expected that Northern Rail could be split up and taken into public hands within months. In June 2018, the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort (OLR) took on the running of the East Coast Main Line through London North Eastern Railway (LNER).
Mr Shapps said that while South Western Railway had not yet failed to meet its financial commitments, the Department for Transport “must prepare suitable contingency measures”.
South Western Railway, which is owned by FirstGroup and MTR Corporation, was hit by 27 days of strike action in December over the future role of guards.