Improving services for London's rail passengers

MQT on 2009-11-18
Session date: 
November 18, 2009
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What formal meetings have you personally held during the past month with Chief Executives of train operating companies?


Answer for Improving services for London's rail passengers

Answer for Improving services for London's rail passengers

Answered By: 
The Mayor

OK. The answer is no formal meetings have taken place between me and the train operating companies (TOCs). We go back really to the issue that we began these proceedings with this morning which is that, alas - although I know John [Biggs] supports me vehemently in this - we do not yet have the franchise and we do not yet have the jurisdiction.

Much as I am sure you would want to saddle me with the blame, Caroline, for any imperfections in the Overground rail service in London, I do not think that would yet be fair since we do not control them. We are going ahead with a glorious event with the TOCs on 23 November 2009.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): OK. Is that your rail summit? Is that the emergency rail summit on 23 November 2009?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is going to be a glorious summit to which all the TOCs have been invited and it will celebrate --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): At the summit a few months ago I am sure you promised that all the Transport Committee Members would also be invited to, so it is nice to learn of that here.

I would like to move on actually and wonder whether you will categorically confirm here and now that, from 2 January 2010, Oyster Pay As You Go will be available on rail. Yes or no?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, if you come to the glorious event on 23 November 2009 then you will discover something to your advantage.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Well perhaps I can confirm. The decision you have actually signed, which is publicly available since 14 October 2009, states very clearly that it will be available on 2 January 2010. Yes?

Tony Arbour (AM): Well why ask the question?

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): I would like the Mayor to publicly confirm it. Yes?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am slightly mystified that you seek my public confirmation of a document that is publicly available and which you already have the full public awareness of.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): You have not actually said it. Yes or no. Will it be available on rail from 2 January 2010?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course it will.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Fine. Well that is great news for Londoners. Do you agree that the --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think we have got some very good quotes. I have got the Chair congratulating me on something earlier on. I have got Caroline congratulating me on this.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Yes. If I can then move on. Do you agree that the whole virtue of Oyster card is that it is easy to use, you can touch in or out, you do not have to queue for tickets and there is no hassle with it?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I can see that you are leading up to something here, Caroline --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Simple question. Do you agree with that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I agree, yes

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): OK. Do you realise that from January 2010 the deal that has been secured means that if you have got a season travel card on your Oyster card and you want to travel out of zone, you are going to actually have to queue up at a ticket office for every single separate trip to get what is called an Oyster extension permit. So, instead of Pay As You Go, effectively, we are going to have on the rail, pay as you wait, will we not?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Do you mean to say that you are, once again, trying to frost over some glorious new improvement in transport for the people of London? I really think it is unbelievable. Here we are --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Do you think it is great that your negotiations have ended up that people are going to have to queue up for an Oyster extension permit before they can go out of zone?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We are finally going to have Oyster Pay As You Go on the Overground and the Underground and I am content to hoover up the praises that I think you justly offered to me and I will convey them to everybody in Transport for London who has negotiated so hard and so long with the 15, I think, franchise holders to get this done. It has been extremely laborious and very complicated. They have finally agreed and I think it will be a great improvement for the convenience of London.

I notice your historic function to try to complain when any advance is made and to say that things could have been better. Perhaps there is some further improvement that we could make but I am content that we have done a great and important thing. Where there is a deficiency which you have touched on, I do not know whether you are right, but we will certainly do what we can to remedy it.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): OK. Well the Oyster extension permit is definitely correct. I have had someone test out the system on the route that already works and it clearly is in place and so that will come in from 2 January 2010 for everyone. I think it is a shame because you get away from the whole idea of Oyster; that it is easy, you can just zap in and zap out and do not have to worry about queuing up for a ticket. Do you not think part of the --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not certain that you are accurate.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Part of the problem is that some of the rail operating companies will not properly gate and staff their stations and, therefore, you have had to bring this kind of measure in. Do you think that is a weakness that you will be raising at your summit?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): If only the last Mayor had shown the slightest spine and succeeded in getting, say for this body over the franchises, then maybe we would have been in a better position to read the riot act. As it is, I am very hopeful that, thanks to the imminent expulsion of the Labour Government, there will be a change in the dispensation and it will be possible for some democratic accountability over those franchises to be handed to this body. I am not certain that we will achieve that but I am very hopeful that we will achieve that.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): OK. Then, in terms of fares, will you be discussing the issue of the difference in fares on rail and the Underground at your summit next week?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Certainly, it is my strong view that the overground rail companies will find it very difficult to maintain their current fare packages and that they will certainly have to put them up. Yes, that is my view.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Thank you very much.