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MPs write to PM expressing dismay over Grayling’s snub of TfL devolution plans

Concerned MPs and peers have written to the prime minister Theresa May over transport secretary Chris Grayling’s rejection of plans to devolve suburban rail services to TfL.

The plans, which would have meant TfL taking control of Southern, South West and Southeastern metro services, were rejected by Grayling earlier this month, who said the “massive reorganisation” necessary to work the deal did not offer value for money.

However, a letter signed by 22 MPs and peers addressed to May has called for the “urgent re-assessment of TfL’s business case” because “far too long commuters have suffered unacceptable delays, cancellations and poor customer service”.

Bob Neill, MP for Bromley and Chislehurst and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, said: “Addressing the problems rail users encounter on Southern and Southeastern must be the priority for the Department for Transport, not party politics.

“We all agree London’s rail commuters deserve better, and as an APPG we want to work constructively with the government to achieve this.”

Grayling has faced criticism for scrapping the plans after a 2013 letter leaked to the London Evening Standard suggested that his real motives for cancelling the deal were based on his desire not to see suburban rail services fall “into the clutches” of a Labour London mayor.

Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, has strongly opposed the decision, saying “commuters’ lives are far, far more important than party politics”.

The mayor’s stance has been supported by the MPs and peers’ letter, which reads: “The APPG for London has expressed strong and long-standing, cross-party support for these proposals.

“We will continue to press for control of suburban rail services to be devolved to the mayor and TfL, working in partnership with adjacent local authorities, in the best interests of commuters and the London and wider south-east economy.”

Grayling’s decision to reject the TfL plans came at an unfortunate time as he also faces the ongoing dispute between Southern rail, owned by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), and the rail unions Aslef and RMT over the safety of driver-only operated (DOO) trains.

The decision made by Southern drivers who are members of Aslef to take industrial action brought all Southern rail routes to a skidding halt as the operator was forced to run no services at all on three days last week, causing widespread disruption to commuters.

Talks held between the parties late last week in an attempt to find a resolution broke down. Meanwhile, the Association of British Commuters protested outside the DfT over the disruption.

(Image c. The Prime Minister's Office)

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