A SOUTHAMPTON MP has questioned the government’s decision to launch a probe into the performance of South Western Railway (SWR).

Alan Whitehead says the move suggests the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has “no confidence” in his own arrangements, after awarding the franchise to SWR in March 2017.

The Southampton Test MP said: “South Western Railway won this franchise last year.

“That the minister has already asked for a review suggests that he has no confidence in his own arrangements.

“Underlying this are bigger issues of deficient investment and private train companies not being held to account which are unlikely to be addressed by a simple review.”

Mr Whitehead also called for the franchise to be brought into public ownership – a key policy of Labour’s shadow cabinet.

It comes after Mr Grayling told fellow MPs of his intention to commission a probe into SWR, after being “very disappointed” with the franchise’s performance over recent months.

The franchise has been struck a series of issues and incidents, including problems with reliability and infrastructure.

Passengers also faced long delays following a line-side fire near Waterloo in December.

The Conservative minister has now ordered an independent review of SWR, to ensure “all possible steps are being taken to improve performance and passenger experience”.

The review will include Network Railway, to which Mr Grayling has attributed a portion of the blame.

In his letter to MPs, he said: “I have been very disappointed with the performance of SWR over recent months, and I know many of you have also been frustrated by the issues passengers have experienced.

“I am determined that we see a long-term, sustained performance improvement across this route.”

Mr Grayling added that SWR had committed to injecting an extra £5 million for “performance improvement initiatives.”

A spokesman for SWR said the franchise would spend a “substantial amount” of the investment on fleet reliability improvements.

They said: “Performance has not been at the level we want, or expect, and we are determined to put that right.”

A Network Rail spokesperson added: “Train performance on this route hasn’t been good enough and, working with South Western Railway, we’re determined to improve it.”

Winchester MP, Steve Brine praised the decision, adding: “This is extremely welcome.

“I have made no secret of the fact I am very disappointed by the opening months of the SWR franchise, and I know my constituents very much share that view.”

The probe will be chaired by Sir Michael Holden, who has over 40 years’ experience in railway operation and will be completed by the summer.