NEWS
15/06/2018 12:21 BST | Updated 15/06/2018 14:21 BST

Govia Thameslink Railway Boss Charles Horton To Step Down After Weeks Of Train Chaos

He will remain in post for a 'short period'.

PA Wire/PA Images
Charles Horton has resigned as chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway.

The chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) will be stepping down following weeks of chaos over delays and cancellations to services.

Charles Horton’s departure from the train operator comes after a change in timetables led to thousands of commuters being left stranded in the north of England.

The company said Horton will remain in post for a short period to oversee the development of a temporary timetable to address the recent major disruption to rail services.

In a letter to staff, he said the company had been going through some “very challenging” times in recent weeks.

“I recognise that passengers have been hugely frustrated at the significant disruption caused by the introduction of new timetables,” he wrote.

“It is the right time to hand leadership of GTR to a new pair of hands.

“I am immensely proud of my team and I would like to thank my 7,000 colleagues at GTR for all their hard work over the past four years.”

David Brown, group chief executive of GTR’s parent company, Go-Ahead, said he wanted to “thank Charles for his hard work with Govia for the past 15 years...under often challenging conditions”.

He added: “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.”

In his letter to staff, Horton criticised an “industry-wide failure of the timetabling process” and said GTR had been subject to “years of under-investment”.

PA Wire/PA Images
Critics said Horton's departure should mark "the beginning of the end" for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association union, said Horton’s departure should “mark the beginning of the end” for beleaguered Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

“This really is not before time. We’ve seen at least two years of passenger protests against the rail chaos at Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern and instead of offering reasonable solutions, Horton has never taken responsibility, but blamed unions and anyone else he could think of other than himself,” Cortes added.

“Horton is part of his misnamed leadership team. I shed no tears for him, but if he’s admitting defeat for the biggest and longest disruption to rail timetables in peacetime history, then it’s because the system is beyond redemption. He’s fallen on his sword. It’s time Grayling fell on his.”

Martin Abrams, spokesman for the Association of British Commuters, said Horton had “presided over one of the worst crises we’ve seen on the privatised railway” and his resignation was “the absolute least that passengers who use Govia Thameslink Railway could expect”.

He added: “Whether Charles Horton is being used as a fall guy for Chris Grayling, who really is ultimately responsible for the debacle we’ve seen, is another question.”