Khan frustrated as Grayling halts London rail devolution plans
The government has announced that suburban rail services may not be devolved to London after all, frustrating the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
Earlier this year, the government signed a prospectus which stated suburban services operated by Southern, Southeastern and South West Trains could be devolved to Transport for London (TfL) in 2020 or 2021 when the current franchises end. Khan has previously argued that giving TfL control of trains would be the only way to improve passenger service.
However, transport secretary Chris Grayling has said that he only wants TfL to be “closely involved” in developing services for now, potentially ruling out devolution to London until the mid-2020s at the earliest.
“The only proven way of improving services for passengers is giving control of suburban rail lines to TfL. This is why the government and previous mayor published a joint prospectus earlier this year,” Khan said.
“Anything short of this simply won't make the improvements desperately needed. It is a fact, TfL lines have more frequent trains, fewer delays and cancellations, more staff at stations and fares are frozen. We will keep pushing the government to deliver the rail devolution they have promised and that is needed”
Khan’s office has argued that London’s metro-style measures would be superior for its suburban rail services, leading to fewer cancellations and delays, putting forward the case of London Overground where train delays lowered by 42% in the three years after it launched. Khan also plans to extend TfL’s fares freeze to the services.
The detailed business case that Khan provided to the DfT for devolution in October argued that the change would bring about more reliable services, improved customer service, and better access for disabled people at no cost to the government.
The business case also showed that the delivery of 80,000 homes across south London could be enabled or sped up by devolution.
However, today Grayling instead announced an overhaul which will see closer integration between TOCs and Network Rail over maintenance and services, bringing together tracks and trains for the first time on the British railway since the mid-1990s.
Grayling said that he expected the Southeastern franchise, which Khan had hoped to take over in 2018, will be one of the first to have an “integrated operating team”.
However, he clarified that a representative from TfL will be invited to join the team so that it can be “more closely involved” in its development.
(Image c. Yui Mok, PA Wire)
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