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TfL should take control of London rail services, says City Hall

Control over London’s suburban rail services should be devolved to Transport for London (TfL) and the mayor, a City Hall report has recommended.

The London Assembly’s report ‘Devolving rail services to London: Towards a South London Metro’ claims that the current rail network is “failing” to meet passenger needs and is “struggling” to cope with increasing demand.

Citing figures from the Department for Transport, the report highlighted that last year 40% of morning peak services arriving in the capital were overcrowded and reliability has fallen with 16% of London and south east rail services arriving at least five minutes late.

It states that devolving control will help solve these problems, with TfL running services as concessions, rather than using the traditional franchise model used by the Department for Transport.

However, the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies and Network Rail, says that some of the best passenger satisfaction levels are achieved in London and the south east under the current system.

The Assembly’s Transport Select Committee started its investigation in June 2015 and believes that TfL should become the commissioning authority for suburban rail, as it has “demonstrated its ability to carry out this role already with the London Overground network”.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: “There is a growing consensus that rail devolution to London is a good idea, including among passengers both inside and outside of London. 

“Our report makes recommendations for the future of the South Eastern and the South Western franchises. We also make suggestions for passenger engagement, infrastructure planning and financial risks.”

She added the report also found that the nightmares at London Bridge station might have been avoided, had a “strong partnership existed between Network Rail and TfL”. 

The report states that a priority for the mayor and TfL in the immediate future should be to gain control of suburban routes on three franchises serving south London, as this is where Londoners are most reliant on National Rail services. The first of these is the South Eastern franchise, due for renewal in 2018.

However, the report acknowledged there are some “significant” challenges to overcome to persuade the government of the case for reform.

A spokesperson for the RDG added: “Private train companies already work effectively with TfL, whether by operating London Overground or ensuring that passengers can use their tickets to travel across both TfL and national rail.”

Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, said that his organisation is a strong supporter of the principle of devolution of rail franchising to the mayor and building on the achievements that the London Overground model has delivered for passengers, including decent standards for stations, enhanced ticketing facilities, additional staffing and improved passenger information. 

“The initiative now lies clearly with the Department for Transport, and we hope that they will give serious and detailed consideration to the issues and evidence set out in this report,” he said. “Rail passengers in the London area, especially in South London, deserve much, much better services than they are getting now.”

A DfT spokesperson told RTM: “We continue to be open to all ideas for making journeys better for rail customers in London. Some rail services in London have already been devolved, including most recently parts of the Great Eastern Main Line in advance of Crossrail. Our franchising programme has generated massive benefits for passengers and the economy, including more seats, more trains and better services.”


John   16/10/2015 at 11:38

Boris and Co need to get hold of this and quick! The Bus companies are against this - of course they are - because it means the end of their gravy train from which they have been paying themselves very handsomely. Time for Change - and not back to the bad old days of Union Control either!!!

Geoffrey   16/10/2015 at 12:08

Presumably they will want to increase suburban at the expense of long distance trains. TfL would do much better to encourage employers to increase flexi-time and spread the peak travel periods. Its so much more fun to live and work in the sticks!

Poortflworker   16/10/2015 at 12:30

Let's make everything tfl, then I can use my staff pass everywhere for free. At least we got our 2% pay rise this year, what we need is though, 10% rise on all fares, I'm sick of free smirnoff at the Xmas parties, we want grey Goose! Sort it out.

Realist   16/10/2015 at 12:58

Oh and what do you consider a 'London' rail service, thanks to the Marples cuts we have few services which don't have some connection with London - Eurostar from Paris? All of the SWR franchise? ECML and WCML - numpty. Will do nothing to help like Crossrail 2 which should take over the Central Line from Epping to Leytonstone before becoming a new underground to Wimbledon and Heathrow. Boris and co won't be thinking about long distance travel and the effect of 4tph from Shenfield on the EA Main Line for example. As for allowing staff passes everywhere the sooner the London transport 'workers' gravy train is stopped the better.

Kev Smith   16/10/2015 at 13:19

what needs creating by transport for london is a network that covers all the commuter routes in to could have it up to 65 miles radius, transport for london could call it .. london .network southeast rail ??

Lutz   17/10/2015 at 00:42

So far there has been no statement of how TfL would address the issues that City Hall claims would be addressed. My concern is that you would be moving to single body for suburban rail that would be subject to the whimsy of the unions unless it is accompanied by full scale automation. That is a long way off, but it is part of the deal as far as I am concerned.

Andrew Gwilt   17/10/2015 at 23:29

London Overground could take over the Greenford branch line with a new bay platform to be built at West Ealing and to be electrified if that's possible on the Greenford branch line or to use 2/3 2-car Class 172 Turbostar if electrification isn't nessesary. Plus London Overground could also extend the East London Line from New Cross to Hayes and to Bromley North via Grove Park and to rebuild & reopen Primrose Hill train station with a new Stratford-Watford Junction service via Primrose Hill with a freight only link passing through Primrose Hill without causing any disruptions. And finally as London Overground are to extend the Gospel Oak-Barking line to Barking Riverside with the electrification as its approved which also means the DLR could extend to Dagenham Dock if that's also nessesary.

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