Devolution plans to deliver transformed services for rail passengers

14 October 2016
  • The business case for further rail devolution presented by the Mayor of London to the Secretary of State for Transport
  • Sadiq Khan says the proposals will improve the daily commute for millions of Londoners, and act as a catalyst for new jobs and homes
  • Rail devolution will accelerate housing development and economic growth, with a potential 80,000 new homes within 1km of stations served by newly devolved lines. 
  • The proposals have cross party support from in and outside London, including MPs, the London Assembly, London Councils and Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire Councils  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is today presenting the Secretary of State for Transport with the business case for the further devolution of London’s suburban rail services to Transport for London (TfL).

The plan sets out how a better integrated and more reliable suburban rail network would improve services for millions of passengers, many of whom are being severely let down by suburban rail services out of stations like London Bridge and Waterloo.

The principle of the further devolution of suburban rail services has already been agreed by the Government in a joint DfT/TfL prospectus in January 2016. The business case presented today sets out how further Rail devolution would also deliver substantial economic benefits, supporting the development of thousands of new homes and jobs in outer London, all while remaining cost neutral to central government.

The business case states how rail infrastructure in south London has been under-utilised, with low levels of capacity, poor service provision and increasingly crowded services. The case explains how, working closely with partners, TfL could apply its experience of successfully running the London Underground and London Overground networks to substantially improve travel for millions of rail passengers.

Improvements TfL would introduce for passengers include:

  • More frequent services, including increasing services longer term between Orpington and Victoria from 6 trains to 8 trains an hour, and trains from Bexleyheath to London from 7 trains to 9 trains per hour   
  • Integrated fares and ticketing, with any freeze in TfL fares also being applied to devolved rail routes within London.
  • Cleaner, refurbished and safer stations with all day staffing, turn up and go services for those with accessibility needs, and more reliable trains
  • Installing more ticket gates, introducing Oyster and contactless payment where they’re not already available, and providing more or better ticket machines
  • Integrated branding and information for passengers across London’s entire public transport network, including adding newly devolved stations/lines to the Tube map

Rail devolution would ensure better links between London rail services and the local communities they serve, with better coordinated decision-making across rail networks, and closer collaboration with local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. It would be a catalyst for further regeneration and support thousands of new homes and jobs.


The biggest impact of this would be in south London where house building rates are less than half the rest of London due to poorer transport connections.

There are currently plans for 80,000 homes within 1km of stations that would be served by TfL’s rail devolution proposals. Improvements in the quality of rail services here would directly help to bring these homes forward much faster. In their submissions to the Outer London Commission, Kingston, Sutton and Croydon councils all stated that ‘poor transport infrastructure seriously limits the scope for growth’ in their areas. 

While focusing on how suburban rail services would be improved, the case makes it very clear that those longer-distance services going beyond London’s boundaries would still be run by the Government. However these services would also benefit from the changes, with consequential improvements in train service reliability achieved outside of the capital. 

A recent TNS survey showed that a majority of Londoners support the Mayor having more control over rail services - 61% of people think suburban railways should come under London government control, while only 12% disagree. (

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan -

“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 –

“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.”

Co-chairs of the cross party All Party Parliamentary Group for London, Bob Neill MP and Steve Reed MP -

“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.”

Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport -

“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, Hertfordshire County Council -

“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.”

Cllr Claire Kober OBE, Chair of London Councils –

“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.”

Tony Arbour AM, Chairman of the London Assembly -

“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.”

Rail devolution would be cost neutral to central Government, with any incremental costs met by TfL. These would be recouped through additional passenger revenue from improved services, as has been observed on the London Overground and, more recently, the West Anglia railway service from Liverpool Street.  The proposal will deliver the equivalent of £4.30 for every £1 spent, which means it would deliver very high value for money. 

The DfT’s timetable for existing franchises means that southeast London suburban services could be transferred to the Mayor when the current franchise ends in 2018, followed by southwest London suburban services in 2020 once capacity works at Waterloo are complete. Suburban services running to London Bridge and Victoria serving south central London, and to Moorgate serving parts of north London, would transfer when that current franchise ends in September 2021.


Notes to editors

TfL would run services using an ‘incentive concession’ model which it operates on the highly successful London Overground. This model ensures that the operator focuses purely on train service reliability and high quality customer service with TfL, rather than the operator, managing revenue risk. The operator is also required to work in close partnership with Network Rail and TfL, to ensure a rigorous collective focus on customer service.

Some specific improvements TfL would introduce for passengers include:

  • More frequent services, better planned transport interchanges and increased capacity to support economic growth, serve more people and help address crowding
  • Enhanced station staffing to provide greater assistance and a more secure travel environment for all customers, as well as guaranteeing  a 'turn-up-and-go' service for those who need assistance to travel instead of having to book ahead
  • Greater train service reliability for all passengers, putting excellent performance at the heart of contracts
  • High standards of customer service, including seamless and integrated fares, ticketing, branding and information for passengers across all public transport services in London
  • Enhanced station facilities and train refurbishment

There is also the potential to reduce the cost of delivering major rail projects, including Crossrail 2. TfL would work in close partnership with Network Rail to identify when access to rail infrastructure is needed and how alternative transport could be provided without the need to compensate train operating companies. This has been successfully put in place with the Gospel Oak to Barking electrification work where close partnership working has saved £4m. 

TfL began operating London Overground services in 2007. Passenger numbers have risen, with 184 million people using the Overground in 2015/16 compared to 33 million in 2008/09. The London Overground travels through 23 London boroughs as well as southern Hertfordshire serving 112 stations. London Overground recently won Operator of the Year at the National Rail Awards.

TfL began managing West Anglia services in 2015. Since then customer satisfaction has increased, with delayed trains down 15 per cent and fare evasion down 86 per cent, all while passenger journeys have increased 27 per cent (statistics based on comparing the same period in 2014/15 to 2015/16)

There would be no adverse impacts on the frequency, journey times or stopping patterns of longer distance services, and a new joint-DfT/TfL partnership board would ensure proper accountability for services TfL runs beyond the edge of Greater London.

The case for the further devolution of suburban rail services has already been agreed by the Government in a joint DfT/TfL prospectus in January 2016. The prospectus included proposals for a range of suburban rail services to transfer to TfL through to the early 2020s, linked to the DfT’s refranchising timetable for the existing franchises.

Stakeholders were given eight weeks to feed back their views with the majority of respondents viewing the proposals positively:

Share this page