The joint-venture which has transformed some of the capital’s worst performing local rail services into the highly successful London Overground is to be broken up.
First launched in 2007 when Transport for London took over the failing Silverlink service, London Overground now carries more than a 176 million customers a year and is one of the UK’s most punctual and reliable rail services with high levels of customer satisfaction.
Although performance targets and fares are set by TfL and the Mayor who own the London Overground brand, day to day operation is the responsibility of contractor LOROL which is jointly controlled by the MTR Corporation of Hong Kong and Arriva on behalf of its parent company Deutsche Bahn.
Despite their work to transform rail travel for commuters being widely lauded, the two partners have decided to launch rival bids to become the sole London Overground operator when the current contract ends next year.
A spokesperson for Arriva described LOROL’s work as “a tremendous success” which they said had delivered “an improved network, refurbished trains, new-look timetables and increased customer satisfaction.”
But they added: “Whilst we each have our individual strengths, strategy and credentials in the rail industry, Arriva and MTR have not been bidding partners previously and we have agreed that we will pursue separate paths in respect of the forthcoming London Overground bid process.”
A spokesperson for MTR, which was recently awarded the contract to operate Crossrail services, said: “MTR has a strong track record of delivering high performing train operations in cities around the world, and we are looking forward to bidding in due course.
“Our LOROL joint venture with Chiltern and, latterly Arriva, has been very successful but was formed nearly a decade ago in different circumstances. MTR is confident of submitting a strong bid in its own right.”
The two soon to be ex-partners will compete against Metroline Rail Limited and LoKeGo Limited, a joint venture between Keolis (UK) Limited and Go-Ahead.
Whoever is selected to run services from next November will be expected to further boost service levels, including improving reliability on services into and out of Liverpool St which have been plagued by delays since joining the London Overground network at the end of May.
LOROL and TfL have blamed the age and condition of trains inherited as part of the transfer for the problems.
The new contractor will also have to maintain station staffing levels and work with TfL on the possible introduction of an all-night weekend service and a proposed extension to Barking Riverside.
Mike Brown MVO, Managing Director of London Rail, said: “London Overground customers have experienced major improvements over recent years.
“We have taken neglected and often unstaffed stations and transformed them into modern and useful parts of the transport system, evidenced by a five fold increase in passenger numbers.
“The new operator will play a key role in continuing that success and introducing further improvements including new air-conditioned trains.
“In the meantime we’re working to improve our services every day, especially on the new routes we’ve recently taken over, where services need to be brought up to the high standards seen elsewhere on London Overground.”