Mayor walks away from ‘fundamentally flawed’ rail approach

13 January 2017

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today rejected Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s proposal for the future of commuter rail services, labelling it ‘fundamentally flawed’.


Sadiq has declined the invitation for a TfL employee to work with the Department for Transport on the Southeastern refranchising process, describing it as ‘a repeatedly tried and failed’ approach to delivering improvements on the rail network.


He said that experience showed it was simply not possible to drive up reliability using the government’s approach, as the franchising model does not allow the level of control that commuters deserve.


Instead he urged the Transport Secretary to turn to a proven successful approach and return to the agreement of devolving suburban rail services to TfL – for the sake of commuters inside and outside of London.


In his letter to the Transport Secretary today, Sadiq said that this change was needed as the Government’s plans for commuter rail services are based on an outdated model of ‘one-size-fits-all’ franchises that has failed numerous times before.


In the Mayor’s proposals, there would be separate contracts that recognise the different needs of London’s suburban routes and longer distance commuter services. By allowing TfL to run the suburban franchises, they could use their proven successful approach to drive up performance and reliability.


This would help rail passengers who have faced months of delays, cancellations and overcrowding, enjoy fewer delays, less disruption, safer stations, and benefit from the Mayor’s TfL fares freeze until 2020.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Sadly the Government’s proposals for commuter rail services are no different to what we’ve seen before and I fear passengers will face more years of unacceptable service levels. It is a repeatedly tried and failed approach.


“I am therefore left with no choice but to walk away from the government’s fundamentally flawed plans.


“Londoners, councils, MPs and Assembly Members know the huge benefits that TfL can deliver. It’s not too late for the Transport Secretary to change his mind and deliver proper devolution for the good of long-suffering commuters inside and outside of London.”


Mike Brown, TfL’s Transport Commissioner, said: “We have already demonstrated what can be achieved by giving greater focus to suburban rail services.


“Since we began operating London Overground services in 2007, we have taken under-used parts of the urban network and brought them back into full use, radically improving services and reaching parts of the Capital that had previously not been well-served by rail. It is now one of the most popular and punctual railways in the country with stations brought up to modern standards, with CCTV, better security, a turn up and go service for disabled customers and staff present at every station while trains are running.


“This demonstrates what we can do and what passengers would like to see implemented across inner suburban routes across London.”‎

Notes to editors

Differently to the Government’s franchise model, TfL use contracts that incentivise operators directly on performance outcomes – ensuring reliability, and passenger needs, come first


TfL has given advice to the Government when asked in previous franchise competitions and has always signed cooperation agreements with the train operating companies when invited to do so.


Rather than giving TfL a bigger role than ever, as claimed, the current proposals for Southeastern are little different to what TfL has been asked to do before. For example, in the 2009-2015 Southern franchise TfL:

•     Had the opportunity to review elements of the specification

•     Paid for enhancements such as station staffing and station upgrades

•     Received franchise information and attended franchise management meetings


This approach proved ineffective as it is simply not possible to drive up reliability using these methods; and better reliability is at the core of what the Mayor aims to achieve and what passengers most value.


Similarly, the Government’s ‘deep alliance’ partnership model, that brought together Network Rail and the train operating company into a single joint management team, has already been tried on the South Western routes until its recent dissolution following disappointing outcomes.


TfL has provided alternative ticketing and transport options during disruptions, and continues to work with the Department on joint ticketing, staffing arrangements and other customer benefits


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.


The Mayor has already submitted a 99 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.