Council chiefs urge Rail South voice for beleaguered Southern Railway passengers

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Civic leaders fed up with the misery being imposed on Southern Railway passengers are calling for a new body to be created to give commuters a say in who runs rail services.

Brighton and Hove City Council leaders want to see Rail South set up to provide long-suffering passengers with a democratically-elected voice on how train services are operated and who by.

Commuters living in the seaside city have been among those badly affected by months of delays and cancellations following repeated strikes on Southern's network.

Brighton and City Council leader Warren Morgan has written to neighbouring local authority leaders in East and West Sussex to ramp up support for a stronger passenger voice in rail services.

Mr Morgan said: "It's time for action on the failing Southern services, and time for passengers and businesses to have a locally accountable and democratically-elected voice in how those services are designed and run.

"It is time for the Department for Transport to end the current concession arrangement with (Southern's parent company) GTR, and work with passengers, businesses and councils on awarding a new franchise that gives us the rail services we desperately need."

Rail South would work with the DfT to manage the Southern franchise, in a similar way to Rail North. And it would have a statutory role in awarding franchises and scrutiny of service standards.

Jonathan Sharrock, chief executive of local enterprise partnership Coast to Capital LEP, supported the bid, saying stronger local involvement in who and how franchises were delivered was essential to rebuild confidence.

The call comes after it emerged that ministers are reportedly preparing a number of options, ranging from splitting off Southern from GTR to a complete "managed exit" to take direct control of the entire franchise until a new contract could be let.

Downing Street has said there are "no plans" for renationalisation but rail companies were aware of the "consequences" if they failed to perform.