Suburban rail devolution a key tenet in Khan’s 25-year transport strategy

Alongside Crossrail 2, the devolution of suburban rail services to TfL and the creation of a suburban metro in the capital have both been featured as a key tenet in the mayor of London’s draft Transport Strategy, published today.

The strategy, now under consultation until 2 October, placed great emphasis on Sadiq Khan’s vision of greater local rail control in the capital by transferring power from the DfT to TfL over specifications for train services within the South Eastern, South Western, South Central and Great Northern franchises “as soon as practically possible”.

Plans for devolution, which had been developed quite extensively in 2016, were soon shelved by transport secretary Chris Grayling, who was then accused of trying to keep the capital’s suburban rail services away from the hands of the Labour Party.

The London mayor voiced consistent frustration over Grayling’s decision, arguing that devolution was “the only proven way of improving services for passengers” and that “anything short of that simply won’t make the improvements desperately needed”. His claims were supported by a YouGov poll for the Greater London Authority, which found that 58% of Londoners supported the decentralisation of the network.

Concerned MPs and peers also sided with Khan, writing to prime minister Theresa May to call for an “urgent reassessment of TfL’s business case” – an idea which the transport secretary was quick to rule out.

After a few months of radio silence on the issue, the mayor has now ensured the idea took a centre-stage position in his ambitious transport strategy, alongside his unyielding support for the development of Crossrail 2.

devolved servicesClick on the image to open it in a new page.

Using London Overground as an example of what TfL can achieve when given the right powers, Khan argued that “even greater benefits” could be achieved if they were accompanied by devolution of franchise specifications.

“There is a strong business case for devolution of these services as it would make the creation of a London suburban metro much simpler and faster, and would provide greater benefits for Londoners and visitors alike,” he wrote.

Devolution would also enable TfL to place better incentives for the franchisee to deliver the same reliability standards as London Overground, as well as specify improved service frequencies at off-peak times, make stations more welcoming and staffed from first to last trains, develop more integrated travel advice, and move towards more affordable fares over time.

“With devolution, TfL’s role would be restricted to selected local passenger services within the London area or slightly beyond where the geography of the railway network requires it,” Khan explained.

“Passengers using longer-distance services, which would remain the responsibility of the DfT, would be unaffected in terms of fares, train stopping patterns or relative priority of services. TfL would have no ability to alter their timetables, although TfL estimates there would be beneficial knock-on reliability improvements as a result of devolving local stopping services to TfL.”

The mayor also outlined the benefits of improving rail services to town centres by creating new ‘rail hubs’. Towns would be served by ‘mini-radial’ networks developed by improving train services on existing lines, opening some new lines and creating new interchange hubs.

“Linked together, these ‘mini-radial’ networks could provide for ‘orbital’ trips to be made by rail in inner and outer London,” the strategy document read. “Improved orbital rail services, integrated with bus services and improvements for cycling and walking, would enable significant benefits to be achieved across most of inner London and much of outer London from what is largely the existing rail infrastructure.”

mini radial hubsClick on the image to open it in a new page.

Mentions were also made to TfL’s commitment to work with the DfT to boost capacity on the London Overground network by 45% by 2030, upgrade rail freight routes outside London to free up rail paths through the capital for extra passenger services, upgrade the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) by introducing a higher-capacity fleet, and upgrade the tram system to grow its capacity by 85% to and from Croydon by 2030.

Khan also pledged to work alongside Network Rail and the boroughs to deliver a programme of station capacity improvements to complement line capacity enhancements – although this is not necessarily new information, with works already underway at key Tube stations.

Crossrail 2

With regards to Crossrail 2, which the mayor has repeatedly labelled as essential to the future of the region, TfL has asked the government to allow greater use of business rate retention and approve extra powers – such as vehicle excise duty in London – to create a fairer way of funding the scheme.

As expected, it has also requested that Whitehall give the scheme the green light immediately in order to deliver it by 2033 – before the arrival of HS2 phase 2b at Euston.

“It has been an incredibly difficult few weeks for London, but we must carry on as a city and that means pushing forward our work to keep Londoners moving around our city,” said Khan.

“London is the greatest city in the world and as it continues to grow it is vital that we take a bold approach to ensure our transport network works for all. We simply cannot afford to take the same old approach to travel as our growing population puts increasing pressure on our network.

“That’s why today I’m setting out a new long-term vision for our capital – one that puts walking, cycling and zero-emission public transport right at the heart of our day-to-day lives. So while we are delivering affordable, reliable and accessible transport through the improved services and new infrastructure that we need, we’re also changing the whole way we look at transport as a whole.”

The strategy naturally relied on the support of London transport commissioner Mike Brown, who argued the document focuses clearly on how, over the next 25 years, the capital will invest in modernising and improving services “so that people have excellent transport connections no matter where they are in the city”.

(Top image c. Yui Mok/PA Wire)


Lutz   21/06/2017 at 12:47

He makes all these demands, but still no explanations for how these proposals are to be funder (while he has undermined TfL with his election promises) nor any practical details of how services would be improved without impacting medium and long distance services using the same tracks.

Manchester Mike   21/06/2017 at 18:41

@Lutz At least he has a vision for improving transport in London, which is more that the PM and the DfT can say.

Lutz   21/06/2017 at 19:10

@Manchester Mike We have as many visions for transport policy in London as there have been candidates for the role of Mayor for London, and a few besides, but without answers for the difficult questions of funding and implementation, these visions all fail just as this as this one will.

Andrew Gwilt   21/06/2017 at 20:29

What about the proposed Docklands Light Railway "DLR" extension to Dagenham Dock (once the London Overground to Barking Riverside is extended and completed) and possible future DLR extensions to Euston St Pancras and Victoria via Charing Cross (with new tunnels to be built west of Bank towards Charing Cross and Green's Park). Plus Elizabeth Line proposed extension from Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Dartford and from Old Oak Common to Watford Junction, Tring and Hemel Hempstead (via WCML).

Andrew Gwilt   21/06/2017 at 20:34

I know that Mr Khan wants to provide better services for South London, Southwest London and Southeast London as London Overground could take over the suburban services from SWT, Southern and Southeastern and also London Overground to take over the suburban services from King's Cross and Moorgate to North London and some parts of Hertfordshire (including Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Hitchin, Hatfield, Enfield Chase and Potters Bar).

Richard   22/06/2017 at 00:11

Andrew, if you read Lutz's excellent assessment above you will see how impossible all of your dreams are. Whilst the ideas may be good in some cases, where is the money? Tfl's budget is already being squeezed after the Bus Hopper Fare introduction and Fares Freeze, there is no way there is enough finance for all of this. A situation unlikely to change whatever Government is in power as economic reality bites.

Andrew Gwilt   22/06/2017 at 00:51

Still don't care Richard. I ain't agreeing on what you said.

Richard   22/06/2017 at 23:31

Whether you care or not is irrelevant Andrew, facts are facts!

Maurice Hopper   26/06/2017 at 13:57

So we are back too a mini NSE (Network South East). Just part of a c 40 year cycle of bring together and separating. If Khan's plans come together the new network will be broken up in 25years only to be brought back together again c 2060 as a new idea. BTW the first maps for CrossRail 1 and 2 where on the table in the mid to late 1960s.... 50 years to complete half a project.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

HS2 Ltd: Five tech firms join Innovation Accelerator initiative

11/09/2020HS2 Ltd: Five tech firms join Innovation Accelerator initiative

HS2 Ltd have announced today (11 Sept) the first five revolutionary tech firms that will join HS2 Ltd’s Innovation Accelerator programme. ... more >
Network Rail publish Decarbonisation Plan

11/09/2020Network Rail publish Decarbonisation Plan

Network Rail have released their interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy, illustrating its preliminary recommendations for decarbonisin... more >
Trains kept moving by AWC despite damaged overhead wires

11/09/2020Trains kept moving by AWC despite damaged overhead wires

Avanti West Coast have taken an unlikely option to allow their timetable to run, without delays, despite damaged overhead wires. The operato... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >