Plans for London mayor to run train franchises put forward

Trains at Clapham Junction Station The proposals have cross-party support

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Proposals for suburban rail franchises in London to be brought under the mayor's control have been put forward to the government.

London mayor Boris Johnson said it would simplify ticketing and bring savings of £100m to help fund improvements.

He added passengers would benefit from more frequent and reliable services.

The Department of Transport (DfT) said it needed to take full account of all rail users before changes were made.

Currently, with the exception of the London Overground network, rail services into the capital are provided by several train operating companies, each with their own franchise agreement with central government.

"This has led to a less efficient network, a confusing mix of ticket prices and fare arrangements for passengers, varying service quality standards and poor public information provision," said Transport for London (TfL).

A spokesman said that train operating companies currently have to bear the risks of two factors beyond their control which increases their costs - fare levels set by the government and the general state of the economy.

He said that by TfL bearing these risks costs would be cut.

He added that under its control, there would be simpler ticketing, cleaner and safer stations and better standards of customer service.

Start Quote

A more coherent London-wide structure would bring more frequent trains, safer stations and sanity to a mind bogglingly complex fare system”

End Quote Boris Johnson London Mayor

Savings from the Southeastern and West Anglia franchises could amount to £100m over 20 years, according to TfL.

The mayor also wants to introduce a smartcard-based, more flexible ticketing strategy to deliver a coherent and integrated fare structure across London.

TfL has targeted the Southeastern network inner suburban services from Dartford, Sevenoaks and Hayes; and the West Anglia inner suburban services from Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford.

The proposals have been submitted as part of the DfT's consultation on Rail Decentralisation and Fares.

'Reliable service'

Val Shawcross, Labour's transport spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said the proposals had cross-party support and added that the transport committee had written to the DfT in favour of the plans.

A spokesman for DfT said: "We are interested in ways of devolving more decision-making about our railways but the right solutions are likely to vary in different parts of the country."

He added: "Before we decide whether any change is appropriate, we would have to make sure that we take full account the interests of all users of relevant rail services, whether they live in London or outside."

A spokeswoman for Southeastern said if TfL was granted franchising powers, its owning group Go Ahead would bid in the usual way.

"We're focused on providing a high quality and reliable service for our passengers - regardless of who oversees the franchise," she added.

Greater Anglia did not want to comment.

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