After months of delays and cancellations on Southern services in and out of Eastbourne, the Transport Secretary has today (1 September) announced a £20 million fund to help improve the troubled network. Chris Grayling confirmed a package of measures to help get the service running as it should, after what’s been described as ‘unacceptable disruption for passengers in recent months’. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “I want the Southern network to be run by a team of people who work together to make sure passengers get decent journeys and that problems are dealt with quickly. This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks and make things work better for the public. “We also need to get to grips with things that go wrong on this part of the network. That is why we are putting in place a £20 million scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network. “I now urge the industry, the train operating company and unions to work together to improve services for passengers.” Chris Gibb, who will head a new project board, working with the train operator, the Department for Transport and Network Rail, to explore how to achieve a rapid improvement to services for the public, said, “I look forward to helping the rail industry improve the passenger experience on the Southern network. Committed railway people across the industry work hard round the clock to provide the best possible service to a growing number of passengers, during a time of much needed major investment. I will bring together the energy of these people to find ways to improve the delivery of this service in the short and medium term.” Key additional benefits of the £20 million include: • £2 million to be spent on more rapid response teams to fix faults more quickly, located close to known hotspots • £2.5 million to be spent on accelerated train maintenance • £0.8 million investment in extra signal supervisors to keep trains moving across the network • £0.9 million investment in a series of measures to minimise the impact of bridge strikes Following the announcement, Govia Thameslink Railway CEO Charles Horton said, “We welcome the benefits this £20 million improvement package will bring for passengers, tackling some of the key infrastructure challenges on the network. Network Rail and Southern will continue to work closely together to ensure this investment delivers real, tangible benefits for our passengers and the new project board will ensure the programme is effectively delivered. This investment complements our existing programme of improvements which is bringing in new trains and changing working practices to improve customer service.” However, the cash injection isn’t being welcomed by the RMT Union, whose members will be taking more strike action next week. General Secretary Mick Cash said, “This stinks of another multi-million pound taxpayer subsidy to bail out the failing Southern rail part of the Govia Thameslink franchise. If there’s money to prop up this private outfit why isn’t there cash available to make sure that the guards and safety are protected on their trains? “If this huge chunk of money was allocated to maintaining the safety-critical role and the jobs of the train guards on the Southern services we could have avoided the strike action that has been forced on us again next week by the penny-pinching, profiteering and intransigence of Southern/GTR."