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Roads to Nowhere

Light at the end of the tunnel for London's rail commuters

mabrams's picture
21.01.2016 | mabrams | Fair fares now

Today the Department for Transport and Transport for London announced proposals for all sub-urban rail services to be devolved to TFL by 2021. This will be a relief to many commuters in London who have endured a shameful cocktail of delays, disruption and poor performance from train operators that serve the capital. 

This is probably the time to declare an interest. I live in Streatham and regularly commute into London using Southern and Thameslink services. Over recent months my completely unscientific view is that the quality of service from these operators has fallen off a cliff.

When the National Rail Passenger Satisfaction survey results come out on 27 January, it will be fascinating to see where the Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) ‘mega franchise’ that encompasses Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern scores. My bet is that GTR will be placed somewhere in the bottom one for overall satisfaction and value for money. London Overground on the overhand score consistently high in terms of satisfaction for reasons we highlighted in our Going Local report in 2013, that is why many people will be cheered by today’s news.

It is also important to remember that the agreement between the DfT and TfL as it stands are just proposals and there will be much wrangling from this point on about the process of transition. TfL will take over the franchises when they expire and the earliest TfL can take over sub-urban services on Southwestern is June 2017, South Eastern is June 2018 and Govia Thameslink Rail is at the end of 2021 maybe as far away as 2022.

So whilst there is some light at the end of the tunnel for commuters in London, it is a long tunnel with potentially a fair few obstacles in the way. Following the ‘unsatisfactory’ meeting between the Rail Minister Claire Perry MP Train Operators and 21 MPs with constituencies on the GTR network, questions will be asked about why this process cannot happen much sooner. There is a momentum behind the campaign to ‘Turn South London Orange’ with influential MPs such as Chuka Umunna and Crispin Blunt driving this forward on a cross party basis and they will surely want to see change come much quicker than 2022, especially as there’s a General Election between now and then. 

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