London mayor bids for more control of suburban rail services

Sadiq Khan Image copyright PA
Image caption Sadiq Khan has previously said TfL should take over Southern services

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is presenting a bid to the government for more powers for Transport for London (TfL) over rail services to the outer capital.

Commuters have faced "bad service" and "nightmare delays" for too long, he said, promising reliable journeys and fare freezes if TfL took over.

He said the move would boost growth with 80,000 new homes near stations.

Franchise Govia Thameslink said it had "not got everything right" but was "committed to making things better".

Campaign for Better Transport backed the bid citing the Tube's reliability.

New jobs and homes

City Hall said passengers were being let down by services from London Bridge and Waterloo stations, and the proposals come after a three-day strike by Southern Rail staff.

Mr Khan has in the past said he believes TfL should take over the running of the Southern Rail franchise from Govia Thameslink. The franchise said its focus was on resolving issues "not arguments about political control".

The mayor's bid for managing suburban routes comes on the day MPs attacked the government's handling of rail franchises.

A Transport Select Committee report cited the "woeful" experience of Southern passengers and urged the government to "get a grip" on monitoring rail franchise agreements.

Putting TfL's case, Mr Khan said: "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."

Image copyright TfL

TfL said after it took over the service between Shenfield in Essex and Liverpool Street station last year from Greater Anglian Railway, journeys rose by 27%, while delays fell by 15% and fare evasion by 86%.

In a statement, Govia Thameslink's CEO Charles Horton admitted it had failed in some areas but said it was working to improve, citing "400 new vehicles on our network in the past two years across the GTR franchise, extended smart card technology across our network and [delivery of] nearly 250 of our obligations under our franchise agreement."

A spokesperson for South West Trains said the challenge was over capacity "regardless of where responsibility lies for delivering individual services".

"We need urgent investment to address overcrowding on trains, and practical measures to tackle the congestion and declining performance on the network from running increasing services on limited and fragile infrastructure."

London Overground 'success story'

City Hall has pointed out the devolution of suburban rail services was agreed between the government and former London mayor Boris Johnson in January.

TfL's business case promises:

  • More frequent services, including increasing services between Orpington and Victoria from six trains to eight trains an hour, and trains from Bexleyheath to London from seven trains to nine trains per hour
  • Integrated fares and ticketing, with any freeze in TfL fares also being applied to devolved rail routes
  • Cleaner, refurbished and safer stations with all day staffing, turn up and go services for those with disabilities
  • More ticket gates and ticket machines and introducing Oyster and contactless payment
  • Integrated branding and information for passengers across London
  • 80,000 new homes within 1km of stations

Campaign group Better Transport said passengers would benefit from more frequent and reliable services, an extension of the Oyster card scheme, and a turn-up-and-go service for all disabled passengers across the network.

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