A cross-party coalition of MPs, councillors and Assembly Members have endorsed ambitious plans published today by Mayor Sadiq Khan to boost the reliability, affordability and quality of London’s suburban rail services.
Since coming to office in May, Mr Khan has made clear his ambition to complete the devolution of rail services to City Hall and Transport for London which began when London’s first Mayor, Ken Livingstone, persuaded ministers to relinquish responsibility for the failing Silverlink service.
Rebadged the London Overground, the service has become one of the UK’s most reliable rail links. Livingstone’s successor Boris Johnson, oversaw the expansion of the Overground and the devolution of rail services which will eventually form part of Crossrail.
Before leaving office this year, Johnson also agreed a joint prospectus with the Department for Transport which set out shared ambitions to devolve more rail services to the capital’s transport agency.
Today Mr Khan published details of how TfL would use its experience in transforming the Overground to improve any newly devolved services.
One of the biggest proposals contained in the Mayor’s business case is the move away from traditional rail franchising and the adoption of the same incentive-based contract already used on the Overground, Docklands Light Railway and bus network.
Under this model, TfL sets fares, service levels and timetables with contractors paid a fee to deliver the end service. Where performance targets are missed penalties are applied, reducing the contract’s profitability.
Mr Khan is also pledging to closely integrate any new services he gains control of into the existing TfL fares structure and suggests being able to better co-ordinate investment would deliver more “cost effective” services.
It’s claimed that improving service and capacity on routes could help support the creation of thousands of new jobs and homes, helping accommodate the capital’s projected growth.
Mr Khan said: “For too long, London’s rail commuters have been getting a bad service – with nightmare delays, cancellations and overcrowding increasingly the norm on our suburban rail routes.
“Today’s business case sets out in detail the huge benefits Londoners will feel from devolving suburban rail routes to TfL. Our plans will not only use TfL’s skills and expertise to improve the daily commute for millions of Londoners, but act as a catalyst for new jobs and homes in outer London.
“Devolution, along with greater collaboration with our public and private sector partners and local communities, will help us deliver a properly integrated transport network across London. Rail passengers will finally get the same standard of service and reliability they get on the Tube.
“We’ve set out our compelling case to the Government – there really is now no excuse for not pressing ahead with changes that will substantially improve the lives of Londoners.”
Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, added: “We have worked hard to deliver better services for our customers on the rail services we control, delivering major improvements and greater reliability. We have taken neglected parts of the transport network and transformed them to support new homes, jobs and economic growth across the Capital.
“London Overground has become one of the most popular and punctual railways anywhere in the country. We want to bring this level of service to the wider London rail network – with seamless interchanges, a single fares structure and more frequent, reliable trains.”
Mr Khan’s proposals, which envisage devolving suburban rail services in the capital as existing franchises expire, have been backed by politicians from within London, as well as from Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire Councils.
Tony Arbour AM, Chairman of the London Assembly, said: “All the party groups on the Assembly agree: the case for transferring more rail services to TfL is stronger than ever.
“This has been talked about for too long – now London’s commuters expect the Government to take action. This proposal is not just about more power for the Mayor and TfL, it’s about giving the Londoners, through the Assembly, more of a say in how their services are run.”
Claire Kober, Chair of London Councils, the body which represents all local authorities in London, added: “The transfer of rail services to Transport for London cannot come soon enough for Londoners who have had to put up with poor rail services for too long.
“The devolution of responsibility for the existing London Overground network and TfL Rail has shown that it delivers a service that more efficiently and effectively meets the needs of the communities they serve, and unlocks the potential to integrate transport planning to boost housebuilding and local economies.”
Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport on Kent County Council commented: “We welcome the proposal from Transport for London for the transfer of the Southeastern Metro services, based on our firm position that there must be no detrimental impact on the county’s rail users.
“We are pleased that Transport for London accepted our non-negotiable “red lines” as a starting point for discussions, and as a result, rail commuters are set to reap a series of benefits.”
Derrick Ashley, Executive Member for Environment, Planning & Transport at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Hertfordshire has benefitted from London Overground trains run by TfL since 2007, with big improvements in the quality and reliability of services.
“We would welcome TfL running more rail services into parts of Hertfordshire, and our experience indicates that rail passengers in other areas around London too have nothing to fear and everything to gain from this step.
“We welcome the proposal for a new strategic Partnership to coordinate rail services across London and the South East, and look forward to engaging further with the DfT, TfL and other local authorities on the structure and remit of that body, including exploring the potential for a capital regional transport authority.”
In a joint statement, Bob Neill MP and Steve Reed MP, co-chairs of the cross party All Party Parliamentary Group for London, said: “London MPs from all parties fully support these proposals. We remain convinced that transferring more suburban services to TfL will bring about positive and tangible changes for rail passengers across the capital.
“We urge the Government to make a swift decision and put in place a concrete plan to ensure that the vast and unrivalled opportunities presented by these proposals are realised.”
Publication of the Mayor’s proposals comes as MPs on the Transport Select Committee say passengers have been “badly let down” by failures on Southern Railway which has been hit by months of staff shortages and industrial action over planned job changes.