Go-Ahead boss de­cries mixed mes­sages over bus and rail

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Oliver Gill

THE boss of one of Bri­tain’s big­gest train and bus op­er­a­tors has be­moaned “con­tra­dic­tory” mes­sages com­ing from Boris John­son’s ad­min­is­tra­tion over the safety of pub­lic trans­port.

Go-Ahead chief David Brown said it was in­cum­bent on the Prime Min­is­ter to is­sue an un­equiv­o­cal mes­sage that pas­sen­gers did not face a height­ened risk of catch­ing coro­n­avirus on buses and trains.

Mr Brown said a mes­sage needed to be “at the right time”, adding that it was “be­yond his pay grade” to say whether that time was now.

“I think there have been slightly con­tra­dic­tory mes­sages that we’ve had about pub­lic trans­port from dif­fer­ent parts of the Govern­ment,” he said.

“In Sin­ga­pore, they never said: ‘Don’t travel by pub­lic trans­port.’ They have said: ‘Travel by pub­lic trans­port safely.’ The pas­sen­ger num­bers are at 75pc. They chose a dif­fer­ent type of mes­sage.

“If you are telling peo­ple you can still go to the pub, it seems slightly strange to be telling peo­ple you can go by car and not by pub­lic trans­port.”

His re­marks came as Go-Ahead, which runs Govia Thames­link, South­ern and South­east­ern rail ser­vices, posted bet­ter than ex­pected an­nual re­sults. The op­er­a­tor nudged into the red with pre-tax losses to­talling £200,000 on £3.9bn of rev­enue, 6pc higher than the pre­vi­ous year.

Trans­port firms have been left frus­trated by min­is­ters’ ret­i­cence to pro­mote pub­lic trans­port. How­ever, with the Govern­ment tight­en­ing its grip on the in­dus­try with multi­bil­lion­pound sub­si­dies, bosses have been afraid to speak out amid con­cerns that they could be bit­ing the hand that feeds them.

Mr Brown voiced fears that with­out a ma­jor in­ter­ven­tion on trans­port safety, Bri­tons will in­creas­ingly use their cars over trains and buses.

“We can­not go back to a city clogged up with cars,” he said. “[And] you will not get Lon­don back work­ing by peo­ple walk­ing and cy­cling.”

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