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London to have more say on rail as TfL takes over devolved network

Rail services operating mostly or entirely within Greater London are set to come under public control as part of a new devolution agreement between the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL).

The partnership, currently under consultation, would see TfL take over suburban rail services in the capital and lead on a new London Suburban Metro standard of services.

It was designed to increase local accountability and power over transport services, with local authorities in and outside of London expected to have a greater say when the network comes under TfL’s scope.

Under the proposed arrangements is a TfL/DfT shared enterprise, with the London transport body taking control over ‘Inner’ commuter routes as their current franchises start to expire from 2017.

This could include services currently run as DfT franchises by train operating companies, such as South Western, Southeastern, Thameslink and Great Northern.

A new metro service would also hold the potential for over 80% of stations to have a train every 15 minutes, up from 67% today, as well as the potential for more regular services via Clapham Junction, south-east London and Kent.

Working alongside councils and LEPs, TfL seeks to bring together funding to build new interchanges at several locations to link different lines. Since the metro scheme would require significant investment and take “some years” to finish, the partnership is still assessing potential funding options.

Mike Brown, London’s transport commissioner, said: “People want to live close to stations and they want those stations to have good quality frequent services connecting them to jobs and to leisure. Providing such services is vital to the future success of our city, yet at present there are wide variations in the levels of service customers’ experience.

“Through this new partnership we will work with the DfT to radically improve the service that rail customers’ experience — integrating fares and information and bringing inner suburban rail services into public transport network. This will bring us closer to delivering what customers want and London’s economy needs — a reliable metro-style rail service that supports new homes and jobs and improves the quality of life for millions of people.”

Other options to be examined include developing new rail lines altogether to connect poorly serviced areas and support new homes and jobs.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP said the government is working closely with TfL to agree the best way of delivering integrated and seamless journeys.

As the bodies continue these discussions, he called on relevant organisations to offer their views through today’s consultation, which closes on 18 March.

A widely held perception that TfL-managed services, such as London Overground, offer better quality and reliability than those run by private train operators meant that the proposals have already triggered a wave of support from all sides – especially considering London’s changing transport profile following explosive growth in demand over the last decade.

(Top image c. mattbuck)


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