New Southern rail boss announced

Patrick Verwer is to take over as GTR's chief executive
Patrick Verwer is to take over as GTR's chief executive

A new boss for the firm running Southern and Thameslink rail services has been announced.

Charles Horton, chief executive officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, is stepping down following delays and cancellations experienced by passengers since new timetables were introduced in May.

Patrick Verwer, former managing director of London Midland Trains, has been unveiled as his successor.

Mr Verwer, who was set to join GTR as chief operating officer in September, will instead join as CEO in July.

He said: “I look forward to working with my new colleagues to deliver on the transformation that is already underway at GTR. My focus will be on ensuring we meet the needs of our customers each and every day.”

Mr Verwer was MD of London Midland, which was run by the same parent company as GTR, from January 2012 to December 2017, when its franchise agreement ended.

Before that he worked in the transport industry in the UK and Europe, specialising in rail and airport services.

He first came to the UK as managing director of Merseyrail as he is originally from the Netherlands having started his career in the Rotterdam Police Force, rising to senior officer level.

David Brown, chief executive officer of Go-Ahead, GTR’s parent company, said: “I have full confidence in Patrick’s ability and determination to lead GTR and its team through the current difficulties and to deliver the long term benefits of the new timetable.

“Patrick brings with him a long history of collaborating with industry partners such as Network Rail and the DfT [Department for Transport] to deliver for customers.”

The late-sign off of the new timetables by Network Rail has been identified as one of the main reasons for the recent disruption, with not enough time left for GTR to carry out the necessary preparation.

The company has been beleaguered by problems since late 2015 and has been locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT union for more than two years over the further extension of driver-only operation on Southern services.

Throughout 2016 and into 2017 journeys were severely disrupted by repeated delays and cancellations.