Transport for London boss Mike Brown has promised passengers a more consistent and more integrated service after ministers agreed to hand over inner suburban rail routes to the organisation.
Under plans published today TfL will become responsible for all services which operate “mostly or wholly” within the Greater London Authority boundary with responsibility for outer suburban services remaining with the Department for Transport.
The agency has been spent months negotiating today’s deal with the DfT which was recently forced to call on its to help deliver the troubled and over-budget Croxley rail link.
Today’s announcement will mean a dramatic expansion of the London Overground network which TfL has turned from a failing ‘misery line’ into one of the UK’s best performing rail services.
Unlike the franchise system used on most rail routes, the London Overground is run under contract from TfL which sets fares and imposes tough service standards which the operator must meet to avoid fines.
The soon to be devolved lines will be run on the same basis, ensuring that passenger needs are prioritised over the franchisee’s profits.
TfL will invest hundreds of millions of pounds in its new routes to bring them up to the high standards enjoyed by London Overground passengers.
Improvements are likely to include major revamps of stations and the introduction of a new generation of open carriage, air-cooled trains similar to those already running on the Overground.
Brown said he was confident that the money needed to deliver those improvements could be found despite recent cuts in the government’s funding for the organisation and the promise of fares costs by some mayoral candidates.
He told MayorWatch: “Yes, money is going to be tight, it’s always tight,” but pointed to the experience on the North London Line were investment has boosted passenger numbers by “260%” and increased fares revenue.
“That’s what a bit of focussed investment, a bit of focussed drive and a bit of commitment from an organisation can deliver.”
He said passengers would see better integration of Oyster and contactless Pay as You Go as a result of TfL control and that the organisation would look to introduce “a harmonious fare structure across the board because that will make it much less complicated for people using our services.”
Mr Brown said the expansion would mean changes to the network’s branding, with the introduction of new line names to aid passengers in planning their routes.
TfL is considering holding a public competition to help name the new lines which could also be assigned a separate colour on the map to aid navigation and make it clearer where lines join and cross with others.
Mr Brown promised that TfL would ensure it learnt lessons from its takeover of West Anglia services where reliability issues with trains inherited from the previous operator caused some services to be delayed and cancelled in the first few weeks of TfL control.
He said: “We don’t get everything right, we’re not perfect but I do think that having that over-arching controlling mind that brings together London’s transport network in a much more integrated way has got to be good for commuters.”