Watchdog calls on Government to ensure that London’s new rail franchises deliver improvements for passengers at least as good as those TfL would have provided09 January 2017
As London’s commuters return to work this new year, London TravelWatch has expressed disappointment at the Secretary of State’s recent decision that there will be no devolution of London commuter rail services to Transport for London in the next round of franchises. It has called on the Government and the rail companies to guarantee that ‘passengers receive the service they would have had if devolution had occurred.’
London TravelWatch Chair, Stephen Locke commented: 'We are absolutely clear that passengers could and should benefit from further rail devolution. Services that have been devolved to Transport of London, on the Overground and TfL Rail, have improved very significantly, even where there has been little new infrastructure investment. So it is no surprise that Londoners have shown their support in a recent GLA poll.'
Stephen Locke continued: 'The Government has decided that the best way to ensure the interests of London’s commuters are taken into account in the 2018 Southeastern franchise is through the current franchising framework. But at the end of the day, what matters is that passengers get a good deal, in terms of things like station improvements, more frequent services, better reliability and a fair and transparent fares structure. The Government now needs to ensure that the new franchise delivers improvements at least as good as Transport for London would have provided. We will input into the franchise on behalf of passengers and monitor the situation once it has been awarded to ensure that passengers get what they have been promised.'
London TravelWatch has pointed out that, where services have been devolved to TfL, improvements to local rail services have not been made at the expense of longer distance travellers. For example, the improvements that have been achieved on services previously operated by Greater Anglia between Liverpool Street and Shenfield have actually also had a positive effect on longer distance services using adjacent lines into Liverpool Street. A range of mechanisms exist to ensure that TfL cannot prioritise the needs of some passengers over others; national rail services still run on tracks provided and maintained by Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road still oversee the operation of rail services provided by TfL. Working with our sister organisation Transport Focus, London TravelWatch has developed a series of essential passenger safeguards for all users of rail services in and out of the capital, local and long distance alike.
- The correspondence between London TravelWatch and Ministers at the Department for Transport is now available on the website including a letter to the current Secretary of State for Transport sent in October 2016 (and one to his predecessor sent in July 2016) and the response we received from Transport Minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in November 2016.
- London TravelWatch was an early supporter of rail devolution and has done much work on the topic. In 2015 we made a submission to the London Assembly Transport Committee investigation into rail devolution. In January 2016 we welcomed the announcement of a new partnership between TfL and the DfT which aimed to pave the way for better co-ordination of rail services in London and the South East.
- London TravelWatch has previously sought to protect the interests of passengers outside London, developing a protocol in 2013 with Transport Focus (then Passenger Focus) to address this issue. This recognises that London’s railway network is used by people making a wide range of journeys, both locally and longer distance and TfL signed up to them.
- For more information, please contact the London TravelWatch press office on 020 3176 5941 or 07734 055494.