Matthew Pennycook has been arguing for the metro rail services to be brought under the control of TfL but the new Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has put the signal at red.
One of my five general election pledges was to fight for the incorporation of our local train services into TfL’s successful London Overground network and I was extremely pleased that at the start of last year, the Government set out proposals to devolve local train services from the Department of Transport to TfL, beginning with the transfer of Southeastern metro services to Dartford and Sevenoaks when the franchise is re-let in 2018.
Sadly, the arrival of a new Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, in the autumn of last year fundamentally altered the Government’s approach. I always knew Grayling was not supportive of the Government’s previously agreed plan to devolve Southeastern suburban services to TfL and that he therefore posed a risk to rail devolution plans. However, I am still surprised about his decision to renege on the Government’s previously announced commitment and furious about the nakedly party-political rationale that underpinned it (a leaked letter proved he opposed the scheme because it put suburban rail routes “in the clutches of a Labour mayor”). I expressed my anger on the floor of the Commons on the day the u-turn was announced and was joined by MPs from the Government benches. Indeed, Bob Neill, a Conservative former minister, said publicly that Grayling should step down for putting party politics over the interests of his Bromley constituents.
Grayling has instead put forward a much weaker proposal for TfL to work with the DfT’s re-franchising team on the specification of services for London. A previous attempt to merely involve TfL in the design of Southern’s 2009 to 2015 franchise failed because that did not involve its proven concession model for suburban rail services. That’s why I’m convinced that the Transport Secretary’s proposed solution for the Southeastern franchise will not deliver anywhere near the benefits for commuters and passengers that giving TfL control has been proven to achieve. Our Mayor, Sadiq Khan, agrees and has rejected the Transport Secretary’s proposal, labelling it ‘fundamentally flawed’."
If you wish to add your voice to calls for the Government to reconsider its volte-face then please write to the Transport Secretary at:
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Rd
London SW1P 4DR