London Assembly members have raised concerns about London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan for Transport for London (TfL) to takeover the running of several Network Rail stations and rail routes.
Last month, Khan said maintenance and upkeep of rail infrastructure should be run by the same organisation as the trains, calling for government cash currently given to Network Rail to be re-routed to TfL.
However, Assembly members including transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon have raised doubts with the plan.
While claiming that she was “in favour” of TfL having more control over the train services, she added that full control of rail infrastructure may be a step too far.
“Instead of constantly talking about long-term changes the current mayor needs to concentrate on getting the basics right and ensuring he uses his existing powers to full effect,” she said.
“A Boxing Day service could for example operate on the London Overground this year – that is entirely down to the mayor of London. Getting to grips with the fiasco of the Barking to Gospel Oak line should also be at the very top of Sadiq Khan’s in-tray.”
She added: “The mayor should stop constantly making excuses and take charge of what he is actually responsible for.”
Meanwhile, Conservatives transport spokesperson for the London Assembly Keith Prince told City AM that TfL would be laden with a £50bn debt under Khan’s proposal.
“Once again, Sadiq hasn’t done his homework. With a £50bn debt, taking on Network Rail’s assets would be a great burden,” Prince said. “Sadiq is good at creating debt so perhaps he wants to improve on his record of putting TfL into a £1bn deficit by taking on another £50bn.”
He added: “In principle, the Conservatives are not opposed to TfL being responsible for metro services in London, but on the mayor’s record there is no way we could agree to him being in charge of anything.”
However, Network Rail and the Mayor’s Office have both confirmed that devolution of powers remains on the table.
A spokesperson for Khan said: “The mayor believes that in the long-term devolving London’s suburban rail services and infrastructure to TfL will improve the unreliable and dysfunctional service currently provided by the private rail companies and unlock existing, unused capacity.
While a Network Rail spokesperson added: “A London rail strategy is being developed by Network Rail and TfL and all options are being considered including devolution.
“London’s rail network is at the heart of a large and complex system, so changes may not be straightforward. We welcome further conversations around how we can better serve passengers across Britain, but ultimately the devolution of rail is a decision for government.”
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