TfL will not take over suburban rail

The Mayor of London reacted angrily to the Government announcement that suburban rail franchises would not come under the management of TfL.

In his announcement about rail infrastructure investment and management, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling did not say that suburban rail would be given to TfL to manage. He said he only wants TfL to be “closely involved” in developing services.

This is despite an announcement earlier in 2016 that services operated by Southern, Southeastern and South West trains could be devolved to TfL at the end of the current franchises, with Southeastern the first, in 2018.

Responding to the Transport Secretary’s announcement that TfL would not take over Southeastern services, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “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. There is cross-party support for this from MPs, assembly members, councils inside and out of London and businesses and their representatives.

“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.”

London Overground has demonstrated what TfL can achieve in terms of improving services for passengers when it is given responsibility. In the three years after it was launched in 2007 train delays fell by 42 per cent.

TfL’s proven concession model is designed specifically for metro-style services to incentivise reliability and customer satisfaction, whereas nationally-led franchises have fallen short of what is needed for these types of suburban services.

The Mayor says that Chris Grayling’s current proposals are concerned with infrastructure, whereas TfL’s devolution proposals concern the operation of train services. This (government) proposal would not end spiralling fare rises for passengers, put more trains on the network, allow more frequent services or put more staff on stations – which would all happen with devolution to TfL.

If the Secretary of State does not take this opportunity to devolve responsibility for the south eastern rail services to TfL now, it is likely that the chance will be lost until after the next franchise ends – the mid-2020s at the earliest. This decision would also make it very unlikely that services in south central, southwest and north London would transfer to TfL in 2020 or 2021 as previously indicated.

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