Khan submits plan to take more control of suburban rail services

More of London’s suburban rail services should be transferred to TfL, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said in a new business case.

The principle of further devolution had been agreed by the government in a joint DfT/TfL prospectus in January 2016. In the new plans, presented to the transport secretary, TfL said it would introduce more frequent services, including increasing services between Orpington and Victoria from six to eight trains an hour, and trains from Bexleyheath to London from seven to nine trains an hour.

It also said it would introduce integrated fares and smart ticketing, so that a freeze on TfL fares, promised by Khan as part of his mayoral campaign, would also apply to rail routes.

Khan said: “For too long, London’s rail commuters have been getting a bad service – with nightmare delays, cancellations and overcrowding increasingly the norm on our suburban rail routes.

“Today’s business case sets out in detail the huge benefits Londoners will feel from devolving suburban rail routes to TfL. Our plans will not only use TfL’s skills and expertise to improve the daily commute for millions of Londoners, but act as a catalyst for new jobs and homes in outer London.”

He added that devolution will “help us deliver a properly integrated transport network across London”.

“Rail passengers will finally get the same standard of service and reliability they get on the Tube,” said Khan. “We’ve set out our compelling case to the government – there really is now no excuse for not pressing ahead with changes that will substantially improve the lives of Londoners.”

The routes TfL has previously identified for devolution are:

  • To/from Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Victoria serving southeast London (current franchise ends in June 2018)
  • To/from London Bridge and Victoria serving south central London (current franchise ends in September 2021)
  • To/from Waterloo serving southwest London (current franchise ends in June 2017)
  • To/from Moorgate serving north central London (current franchise ends September 2021)

The business case said that rail devolution would ensure closer collaboration between rail operators, local authorities and LEPs, and help reduce the cost of projects such as Crossrail 2.

In addition, it said better rail services would increase housing building. Up to 80,000 homes are due to be built within 1km of the stations that would be served by TfL’s proposals, and the prospect of better rail links would encourage building to take place faster.

TfL also promised to refurbish stations, adding ticket gates, more ticket machines and all-day staffing.

It said devolution would provide integrated branding and information for passengers across London’s public transport network, such as adding newly devolved stations to the Tube map.

TfL has operated London Overground since 2007, and West Anglia services since 2015.

Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “We have worked hard to deliver better services for our customers on the rail services we control, delivering major improvements and greater reliability. We have taken neglected parts of the transport network and transformed them to support new homes, jobs and economic growth across the Capital.

“London Overground has become one of the most popular and punctual railways anywhere in the country. We want to bring this level of service to the wider London rail network - with seamless interchanges, a single fares structure and more frequent, reliable trains.”

Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, backed the move, saying that London Overground is a success story.

“We want to see replicated across the capital to ensure the city’s transport links can cope with its growing population and deliver economic benefits to more Londoners,” she added.

Etkind called on the government to begin the process of transferring south-east London services to London Overground “next month” before making a decision on the Southeastern franchise.

Caroline Pidgeon AM, chair of the London Assembly transport committee, has called the government’s lack of communication on whether it would consider transferring the Southeastern franchise to TfL “worrying”.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Mayor has submitted a business case for running London suburban rail services. We will now consider this and decide whether it will improve services for all passengers,‎ including longer distance commuters. We will also need to understand how the Mayor intends to fund his proposals. A decision will be made in due course."

(Image c. Jonathan Brady from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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Andrew Gwilt   14/10/2016 at 12:44

I do like how the Mayor of London wants to improve suburban metro routes across Southwest London, South London, Southeast London and North London with new trains to be ordered and to improve better journey times and TfL is to provide better services for London.

Lutz   14/10/2016 at 20:45

It would be interesting reading; especially around costs, and the impact on existing mainline services that will remain with the franchisees. At the moment, the target services pay a premium for distribution to other areas of the country; will this transfer funding come to an end? If so, were will the gap in the regional funding come from? How will the proposed infrastructure, staff, and vehicle investments be funded? The existing TfL funds are stretched. Will local tax contributions have to be increased - i.e. from Poll Tax and Local Rates? What happens if once transferred to TfL the Unions decide to hold another strike; will this impact ALL of the suburban services or will the routes be kept as separate companies to avoid this risk?

Gabriel Oaks   17/10/2016 at 07:46

TfL's empire building... .

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