Rail Devolution and London Bridge

MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


The recent chaotic scenes at London Bridge further highlighted the disadvantage of a chaotic and fragmented rail system in London. What are you doing to progress the devolution to City Hall of control London's suburban rail services?


Answer for Rail Devolution and London Bridge

Answer for Rail Devolution and London Bridge

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  This is about London Bridge Station.  Val, you and Darren have both asked about it.  The crucial point here, as I have said in this Assembly before - and I hoped that it would be widely publicised, but I discovered that you can say something in the London Assembly and people just ignore it, rather irritatingly - is that the chaos at London Bridge, in my view, is an overwhelming argument for the further devolution of rail to this city and further democratic control of our railways and our suburban rail networks.  I am grateful to you, Val, and to everybody around this horseshoe who has supported that campaign.


We have made progress.  On 31 May the suburban services out of Liverpool Street will be managed by TfL and on the West Anglia Line a few years later.  Passengers will immediately get the pay-as-you-go fares from May as a result of the deal we have done on the West Anglia Line.  The suburban services out of Paddington by 2018 will transfer to TfL as part of Crossrail.  The argument that we make to the Government is not only that this is hugely popular but that it delivers better services.  I think we are winning that argument.


Actually, the chaos at London Bridge has been helpful.  It was very striking that on 23 February when announcing the Long Term Economic Plan for London - and I know that Members for south east London will be heartened by this - the Chancellor said not only that he wanted to devolve skills to London and the other things we discussed but that:


“I think we should look at giving the Mayor more of a say over future commuter train franchises ... so we have one coherent transport system that serves well not just those who live in London, but those who come in every day to work here too.”


He singled out the Southeastern network and the possibilities there.  That franchise is coming up.  That is the next big prize.  In 2018 the suburban Southeastern services we think could be devolved subject to agreement by a future Government.  Obviously, Val, with your influence in the Labour Party, it would be great to hear that that has cross-party support as well.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I absolutely agree with you for once that it is really important to press the case now for devolution of rail.  I actually met with the Secretary of State for Transport last week with a number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and we urged him to take responsibility - because that is the system at the moment - for the chaos and to try not just to improve the situation but to give some decent compensation to passengers.  Really, they deserve 50% of their season tickets back.


I was happy to see that at last the Secretary of State had announced that there would be a review of the Network Rail board.  Believe it or not, I met Mark Carne [Chief Executive, Network Rail] this morning in London Bridge Station ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  By chance?


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  He was there with Louise Ellman [Louise Ellman MP, Chair, Transport Select Committee] and I gave him a full account of the frustrations of south London passengers ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Did he enjoy that experience, Val?


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  ‑‑ and of the knock-on impact on passengers on the rest of the network because there has been a huge knock-on impact.  Is it not appalling, Mr Mayor, that a London transport crisis that began in early January - actually, there were problems in the months before that - takes MPs going to see a Cabinet Minister in March to get anything like the kind of attention that we need to have this issue resolved?  I can tell you we have had lots of conversations with our front bench and there is a lot of support now for rail devolution, including amongst our most senior people.


Can you tell me what you have done to seize the moment and make sure this is the turning point for London getting control of its own railways?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You have made a lot of the points for me there and I am obliged to you.  We have had, obviously, endless meetings with Mark Carne and with the Department since the problems began.  One of the interesting features of ‑‑


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Have you had a meeting with your Secretary of State, Mr Mayor?  Have you pressed the point with your Cabinet?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not want to go into the details of every meeting I have with Cabinet Ministers, but I have had abundant meetings with Patrick [The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport], with Mark Carne and with everybody on this issue.  One of the interesting features of this whole crisis is actually that the guy they now have in charge of sorting it is Phil Hufton [Managing Director of Network Operations, Network Rail], as you know, who is a fantastic operator and whom they nicked from us.  Network Rail nicked him from us at top dollar, by the way.  If anybody ‑‑


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  I agree that he’s absolutely great, but can I just point out to you that they have left in him charge of Network Rail’s national operations as well, which is too much for one man to do?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Can I just finish my point?  The basic problem is that there is no single political ownership of this crisis.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Agreed.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is what I said to you in this Assembly a couple of months ago and that is why that it does underline the case for devolution.  If we had a problem like this at one of our big Tube stations like Victoria Tube Station, if we had this kind of crisis and this kind of congestion, it would be me.  My ass would be grass - or whatever - unless we fixed it and we would have to fix it fast.


However, the problem with the current situation is that we do not have control.  We do not see the timetabling.  We do not have access to the signalling decisions that are made.  These are not TfL decisions.  The sooner you have rail devolution in London, the sooner you will get proper accountability.  That is basically the only way to protect the travelling public from this kind of situation.  That is the argument that we have been making and it is very interesting now to see what George Osborne [The Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer] is saying.  The Chancellor absolutely gets it.


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Thank you.