Heidi Alexander calls for TfL to take over parts of GTR franchise
- Handing control of crisis-hit services to London a ‘no-brainer’ -- deputy mayor
- Devolution would mean better services and simpler fares for passengers
In her first major speech as London’s new Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander today demanded urgent talks with the Government to bring substantial parts of the ailing Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise under the control of Transport for London.
Heidi’s comments come as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has today written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling demanding talks get underway about transferring many of the franchise’s key London routes to TfL as soon as 2020.
Under a proposed restructure of the GTR franchise, responsibility for the London services currently run by Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) would come under TfL control in 2020, the earliest opportunity if GTR has its franchise stripped early.
These would include the Great Northern Services running out of Moorgate to Enfield, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, as well as suburban services out of Victoria and London Bridge to places such as Croydon and Sutton.
Long-suffering rail users have endured five chaotic weeks since Govia Thameslink Railway introduced new timetables in May – with no end in sight. Last week 14 per cent of peak trains were cancelled and another 39 per cent were running late passing London Bridge. GTR faces being stripped of its franchises unless performances on its services rapidly improve.
Meanwhile the success of London Overground and the continued reliability of TfL Rail provide an overwhelming business case to support the Mayor’s devolution plans which would also lead to simpler fares for passengers.
Sadiq has offered the immediate help of TfL officials to assist in making the failing franchise work better now, noting that cooperation is needed across government and party lines to ensure GTR customers enjoy a more reliable and frequent service.
Speaking at a transport conference hosted by Centre for London in partnership with Transport for London, Heidi Alexander said:
“The crisis with Govia Thameslink is blighting the lives of Londoners, and risks causing our city economic damage if it continues much longer. Transport for London’s record of running successful rail services in the capital shows that giving it control of GTR’s beleaguered routes out of Moorgate is a no-brainer. The Mayor has offered the immediate assistance of TfL staff to work with the DfT to make the franchise work better, ahead of TfL being ready to take over the entire service in 2020.
“We also stand ready to take over West London Line services between Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction, but our ambition doesn’t stop there – metro services across Southern, SouthWestern and SouthEastern should be our goal. Hundreds of millions of journeys are made on these services every year. Let’s find a way to bring the success and benefits of the TfL Rail and Overground to London’s wider rail network.”
Ensuring people retain confidence in London’s rail network is essential for getting more people to choose public transport instead of their cars. Reiterating the Mayor’s commitment to improve the environment and tackle congestion, Heidi also used her speech to encourage more people to walk and cycle more frequently by creating streets for people, rather than designing our city around the car. She said she would ‘supercharge’ the delivery of new cycle routes and expand a network of protected cycle lanes out to more parts of London to help make roads safer. An average of £169m per year will be spent on infrastructure and initiatives to promote cycling over the next five years - almost double the amount spent over the last mayoral term.
Heidi reiterated the importance of a direct vision standard for heavy goods vehicles to ensure that truck drivers are able to see everything around them and don’t put other road users at risk. Her comments come following a consultation about the Mayor’s plans for a HGV Safety Permit which received 2,500 responses with 91 per cent in favour of the proposals.
Notes to editors
An independent report by Chris Gibb recommended that TfL take over the Great Northern Metro lines which run out of Moorgate, through Enfield & Haringey.
The rail devolution plans have cross-party support. Conservative MP Grant Shapps recently spoke out in favour of TfL taking over the Great Northern line to Welwyn Garden City.
The London Overground continues to outperform the private train operators significantly when it comes to punctuality and reliability. Just six per cent of Londoners think that private train companies are better overall at running train services, compared to 50 per cent stating that TfL are better.
Plans have been published for 25 new cycle routes to be delivered over the lifetime of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy with six set to be built within five years. Two routes have been accelerated for construction during this Mayoral term.
A record £2.2bn is being invested across London to create more healthy streets with better air quality. The investment will help Londoners get about quickly without having to use a car, which will benefit people’s health, improve air quality and encourage the shift towards more healthy and active travel.