Mayor: My pledge to suburban rail commuters

05 January 2017
  • New pledges set out substantial benefits rail devolution would provide for passengers 
  • TfL fares would be frozen across suburban rail services, and reliability improved
  • Station staff will be present from the first train to last train


A week after a poll showed that the overwhelming majority of Londoners support the devolution of London’s suburban rail services to TfL, today the Mayor of London announced five pledges to transform the experience for passengers if rail devolution goes ahead.


Passengers on Southern, Southeastern and South West franchises have faced months of delays, cancellations, overcrowding and strike action, and the latest figures show that Govia Thameslink now has the worst performance of any train operator in more than a decade – since 2005.


Sadiq Khan today pledged that if control of these inner-London franchises was given to TfL when the franchises come up for renewal, there would be fewer delays and cancellations, less disruption, safer stations, and the Mayor’s TfL fares freeze could be expanded onto London’s suburban rail routes.


Just this week the Government allowed private rail companies to increase fares by an average of 2.3 per cent — with the cost of some journeys rising by as much as five per cent. The Mayor described the hike in rail fares as ‘scandalous.’ 


If the Government delivers on its promise to give TfL control of our commuter rail lines, the Mayor is pledging he we will deliver a number of improvements for passengers:


1) Fares frozen until 2020


While the Mayor has frozen TfL fares across London’s transport network, the Government has allowed private train companies to increase rail fares by an average of 2.3 per cent this year. If TfL assumes responsibility for suburban rail services, fares on these services would also be covered by TfL’s fares freeze. 


2) More trains & fewer delays


Fit-for-purpose higher performance trains will lead to reduced time waiting in stations and faster journey times. Working alongside Network Rail, improvements to track, junctions and signalling will lead to increased train frequencies.


3) Safer stations


TfL would ensure there is staffing of all stations at all times, from the first train to the last train. More ticket barriers will also be installed at every London station to tackle fare evasion and make the network safer, with stations cleaner and brighter.


4) Less disruption


There are fewer strikes, delays and cancellations on TfL services compared to commuter services like Southern, Southeastern and South West. The number of days lost to strike action on TfL services has reduced significantly since Sadiq Khan became mayor.


The evidence is clear that commuters get a better service when organisations like TfL engage and talk with train unions. This is in contrast to the Government who have completely lost control of the Southern crisis. 


5) Better service

TfL would run services using a model where the operator focuses purely on train service reliability and high quality customer service. Services would be fully integrated into the rest of London’s transport network, including Oyster and contactless payment at every station where it doesn’t exist today. 



Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said -


"Today’s five pledges set out some of the major practical benefits rail devolution would provide for passengers in and around London. 


"Millions of rail passengers continue to suffer a terrible service from the private train companies, with constant delays and cancellations, and this week’s increase in rail fares will be the final straw for many commuters.


"Rail devolution would not only mean that fares could be frozen across London’s suburban rail routes, but would also improve safety by ensuring station staff are present at all times of day and night. By focusing purely on reliability and customer service, passengers will finally get the frequency and reliability of trains they desperately need and deserve. 


"The devolution of London’s suburban rail services is backed by the overwhelming majority of Londoners, in addition to councils, MPs, and Assembly Members from all political parties. It is only the Transport Secretary who continues to bury his head in the sand, and refuses to acknowledge the huge benefits rail devolution could provide."


The Mayor has already submitted a ninety-nine page business plan for TfL to take control of the inner-London sections of commuter lines, and improve the service the passengers. TfL made similar changes to the London Overground line when they took control of the line from the DfT in 2008, and again in 2015, transforming it from one of the worst in the country to one of the best.


Earlier this month Chris Grayling broke a Department for Transport (DfT) promise to hand over control of inner-London commuter services to Transport of London (TfL), which was agreed in January by his predecessor, Patrick McLoughlin, and the previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. It later emerged that a letter was sent from Chris Grayling to Boris Johnson in 2013, in which the now Transport Secretary outlined his opposition to rail devolution because of his desire to 'keep commuter lines out of the clutches of a future Labour Mayor'.

Notes to editors

Polling, conducted by Yougov for the Greater London Authority showed that 58 per cent of people think that TfL should have more control of commuter rail lines, with just 14 per cent of Londoners backing Chris Grayling’s decision to keep London commuter lines in control of the train operating companies.


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.