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Watchdog tells DfT to make up for botched TfL devolution in next franchises

London TravelWatch has called for the DfT to make up for its refusal to devolve London rail services with a new round of improvements in the upcoming franchises, including stations, more frequent services and better reliability.

Last month, transport secretary Chris Grayling halted plans to devolve suburban services operated by Southern, Southeastern and South West to TfL when the current franchises end.

The plans have been criticised by MPs from the affected areas, and a leaked letter subsequently revealed that Grayling had opposed devolving rail as far back as 2013 on the grounds that he didn’t want a Labour mayor to have control of the service.

Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, said the watchdog was still “absolutely clear” that devolution offered the best services for London passengers.

“The government has decided that the best way to ensure the interests of London’s commuters are taken into account in the 2018 Southeastern franchise is through the current franchising framework,” he noted.  

“But at the end of the day, what matters is that passengers get a good deal, in terms of things like station improvements, more frequent services, better reliability and a fair and transparent fares structure.

“The government now needs to ensure that the new franchise delivers improvements at least as good as TfL would have provided.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan recently set out six pledges for major benefits on devolved rail services, including a fares freeze.

Locke said London TravelWatch would provide input as the 2018 Southeastern franchise is awarded and would monitor the new operator to make sure it kept its promises to passengers.

The watchdog noted that devolution was supported by 58% of Londoners in a recent poll, and that where TfL does control rail services, there is no evidence that it has focused on local rail at the expense of longer-distance services. For example, the improvements that have been achieved on services previously operated by Greater Anglia between Liverpool Street and Shenfield have also had a positive effect on longer distance services using adjacent lines into Liverpool Street.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Wire and PA Images)

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Lutz   09/01/2017 at 19:37

So all those say that at the end of the day, passengers must get a good deal are expecting tax payers to fork-out for those that hold the country to ransom. No way; bury these people.

Andrew Gwilt   10/01/2017 at 15:29

TfL is also committed to take over the Moorgate Line as far as Hertford North if possible. But yes TfL is planning ahead to take over London's suburban lines for Southeast London, South London, Southwest London, Northeast Kent and North & Northwest Surrey and with new trains to be ordered to replace the older rolling stocks.

David   11/01/2017 at 13:45

Andrew, if TfL is taking over the Moorgate services, it will be to Stevenage. No point in splitting at Hertford and Welwyn. Though this discussion really isn't relevant to the article here.

Joel   12/01/2017 at 13:32

We need to open this debate to all of the 'beneficiaries' of passenger transport in all modes. Yes, passengers benefit but so do all the other organisations at the other end of the journey - the shops, leisure centres and businesses which would struggle without the public infrastructure delivering their customers and employees. As in Paris with a payroll tax, London and other UK major centres should be contributing not only to the cost of the services which keep them viable, but also from the advantage of rises in land values that new and existing rail and bus infrastructure create. How to balance that out fairly is beyond my wit, but the principle is good, democratic and fair. It ought to be applied particularly to the London Night Tube which is costing Londoners a fortune but seeing (municipally) none of the benefit - none of the extra profits from the night economy will return to TfL. Many travellers will be using stored-time ticketing, not stored value, so not all night travellers will generate new revenue to the Underground. We need a broader vision of who should pay..

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