(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
The Government has announced that it is to take over the running of train services from operator Southeastern.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the move after an investigation found evidence of a serious breach of financial rules dating back years.
The Department for Transport will now oversee the switch from private to government control along some of the busiest routes in the country.
Why is the Government taking over Southeastern trains?
Mr Shapps said that an investigation by the Department for Transport had uncovered “clear, compelling” evidence that Southeastern had breached its financial obligations.
The DfT said that it had evidence that since October 2014, the company had not declared more than £25 million of historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned.
The Government said the failure to declare the funding amounted to a serious breach of the franchise agreement’s “good faith” obligation in relation to financial matters.
Mr Shapps added: “There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that LSER have breached the trust that is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways. When trust is broken, we will act decisively.”
The money has since been repaid.
What routes does Southeastern operate?
Southeastern, which is run by Govia, is currently responsible for more than 2,000 services a day.
It is responsible for routes in and out of London from Kent and parts of East Sussex, serving 164 stations with almost 400 trains.
It also operates trains on the High Speed 1 line which runs from London’s St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel.
The company says that it carries more than 600,000 passengers a day across its trains and employs 4,000 staff.
What does it mean for passengers and are tickets still valid?
Southeastern, the Government and the new operator SE Trains Limited, have all moved to reassure passengers and frontline staff that the changes should not affect them.
Robin Gisby, chair of SE Trains Limited, said: "This decision doesn’t affect the day-to-day operations of our train services, and we will continue to work hard to provide passengers with a great experience.
"I’d like to reassure all passengers that this is very much business as usual with no immediate changes."
In a statement on its website, Southeastern said: “Our passengers will see no change in our day-to-day operations. All tickets will remain valid after transfer and new tickets can continue to be purchased in the usual way.”
It added that travel vouchers and refunds would continue to be handled in the usual way and that there would be no changes to services or timetables.
Mr Shapps said that the takeover would see the new operator prioritise “punctual, reliable services”.
The Government also insisted that the changes would have no impact on frontline staff.
The DfT said: “The decision is no reflection on their professionalism and dedication and will not affect jobs.”
When does the change take place?
SE Trains Limited - the Government’s in-house “operator of last resort” - will take over operations on 17 October, when Southeastern’s current franchise agreement expires.