TfL identifies rail services ripe for devolution


Transport for London (TfL) officials have set out its plans to take control of some surburban rail services, including identifying four groups of routes, mainly to the South of the capital.

A paper to be considered by the TfL board next week sets out its proposals for further rail devolution, arguing that this would provide ‘higher standards of customer service and satisfaction, more reliable services, integrated fares, increased station staffing and more frequent off peak services’.

Some services from London Victoria could be devolved to TfL

The paper, by Gareth Powell, director of strategy and contracted services, identifies as a key milestone the start this autumn of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) process of re-letting the franchise for southeast London and Kent. It says this ‘is the next franchise whose local London services could feasibly be devolved from the DfT to TfL, if the Secretary of State for Transport agrees’.

According to Mr Powell, this re-franchising process ‘provides an opportunity for suburban services to be separated from the rest of the franchise and transferred to a TfL concession while benefitting from competitive pressure’.

‘This would reduce costs of devolution by removing the need to negotiate with an incumbent franchisee,’ Mr Powell says.

He points out that the majority of the 228 million journeys a year currently made TfL’s devolved rail services are north of the river Thames, with London Underground also having limited coverage south of the river.

This leaves large areas where TfL has no control, while ‘clear and measurable benefits’ have arisen on services that have already been devolved to TfL, and similar benefits could be achieved for services transferred in future.

Services earmarked for devolution

The paper identifies four groups of suburban services that would be suitable for transfer to TfL, all of which are part of current DfT-managed franchises that will end by 2021:

  • to/from Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Victoria serving southeast London (current franchise ends in June 2018)
  • to/from London Bridge and Victoria serving south central London (current franchise ends in September 2021)
  • to/from Waterloo serving southwest London (current franchise ends in June 2017)
  • to/from Moorgate serving north central London (current franchise ends September 2021).

Most of the London terminals served by these services also host longer distance ‘outer’ services to/from destinations distant from London, with limited stops within London and which would remain the responsibility of the DfT.

Mr Powell states that TfL has developed safeguards with Kent County Council to ensure that users of outer services will not be disadvantaged by the devolution proposals.

Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire County Councils – the councils adjacent to the areas of London in which the four groups of services operate – have all made clear in writing their support for the devolution proposals, Mr Powell says.

Mr Powell recommends that newly devolved services would operate on a concession basis, under which TfL pays an operator a set fee for delivering the specified level of service. This approach is currently used for London Overground, TfL Rail and Docklands Light Railway.

The paper says that if its Board agrees the plans, TfL will seek a letter from the transport secretary expressing his intention to devolve suburban rail services in southeast London and subsequently work with the DfT on the detailed arrangements for devolution.


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