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TOPIC: TfL suburban rail proposal hits the buffers

TfL suburban rail proposal hits the buffers 07 Dec 2016 23:18 #2485

Basil Clarke Basil Clarke's Avatar Topic Author
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling has said that the government is no longer proposing to transfer some London suburban train services to Transport for London. This announcement overturns the terms of an agreement made between the DfT and former London Mayor Boris Johnson eleven months ago .

Mr Grayling's statement follows several recent calls by the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to begin the transfer process. Among those expressing disappointment is Bob Neill, Conservative MP for Bromley & Chislehurst and himself a former minister, who has gone as far to call for Mr Grayling to lose his post.

Those in favour of transferring services to TfL control point to the remarkable transformation that the creation of London Overground brought to some previously neglected rail links, in terms of service frequency, reliability, reduced fares, the condition of stations and the availability of station staff throughout the day.

The chief argument cited against transferring services to TfL is that trains serving the London suburbs also operate outside Greater London, in areas where the Mayor of London and GLA have no mandate. This is a perfectly reasonable argument, but one that the transport secretary in the Cameron government, Patrick McLoughlin, evidently didn't consider to be a show stopper. However, it has now emerged that it isn't just the merits of the case and the interests of rail passengers that are being taken into account by the current transport secretary, but party politics of a rather disturbing kind. A leaked letter from Mr Grayling to Boris Johnson dating from April, when Johnson was still Mayor, reveals that Mr Grayling was opposed to transferring services because he wanted to "keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour Mayor".



I call this "rather disturbing" because it suggests to me that Mr Grayling doesn't buy into one of the fundamental principles of democracy: that sometimes the voters choose the other lot and you just have to live with it and wait until you get the next chance to put your ideas to the electorate.

What does this mean for Palmers Green commuters?

It looks as if we are definitively lumbered with our local train services being operated by a company that has so far shown little sign of being up to the job. Govia promise us that a doubling of the offpeak service is less than two years away, yet they continue to be incapable of running the service they advertise at present. It's difficult to find and interpret the official statistics, but it seems to me that the pre-existing problem with service at weekends and during school holidays, inherited from First Capital Connect, is if anything spreading to the rest of the week. If you go to www.networkrail.co.uk/about/performance/ and download the Suboperator PPM Figures document, you'll see that Great Northern is actually the best performing part of the Govia franchise. However, compare the Great Northern figures with those for other rail operators, and they don't show up in such a favourable light.

For October-November 2016 the headline Public Performance Measure for the railways as a whole was 85.1%. For Great Northern it was 74.5%. Six per cent of Great Northern trains were either cancelled or more than 30 minutes late, as opposed to 3.8 per cent across all England and Wales services.

I was feeling a bit more favourably inclined towards Govia when I read about their planned timetable improvements, but sense was knocked back into me on Sunday when I looked up the trains on the web. There was a two hour gap! Govia were not even able to run the one train an hour that was scheduled.

Now as a pampered resident of Greater London, I was able to catch the bus down to Wood Green and get on the tube. However, had I wanted to travel to or from one of the areas outside Greater London that Chris Grayling is so concerned about the London Mayor interfering with, say Cuffley or Bayford, I would have been completely stranded. Would Hertfordshire residents be that upset if London Overground were to impose its standards of punctuality and availability on their rail services? I suspect not.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Garry Humphreys

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TfL suburban rail proposal hits the buffers 08 Dec 2016 18:00 #2487

Here's a letter from today's Independent:

Time to derail Chris Grayling’s plans

I have come to the conclusion that Chris Grayling seemingly believes that the transport secretary position is merely a sinecure? Despite the disgraceful shambles on Southern rail, he refuses to get involved. Who does he think should intervene – the Health Secretary?

Now he is reportedly blocking a cross-party initiative to allow Transport for London to run suburban services into London. This decision is appears to an attempt to thwart a Labour London mayor. Virtually everybody would have more faith in TfL to run a competent rail service for long-suffering fare-paying passengers than the franchisees.

Robert Boston

Kent

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TfL suburban rail proposal hits the buffers 06 Jan 2017 23:28 #2579

Basil Clarke Basil Clarke's Avatar Topic Author
If a new article on London Reconnections is to be believed, there are multiple factors behind the abandonment of the further transfer of suburban train services to TfL/Overground. They can be traced back as far as 1965, when Epsom successfully resisted becoming part of Greater London, personalities played a part, as well as party politics and ill-advised wording in letters sent to the Department for Transport. And, surprise surprise, Brexit is listed among the reasons why the plan has been abandoned.

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