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Government backs TfL bid to take over trains

London Overground

Transport for London’s long-held desire to take charge of suburban rail services has won the support of government.

Proposals for what has been dubbed “a new era of rail travel for London” were launched today transport secretary Patrick McLoughin and London mayor Boris Johnson.

The proposals — on which views are being sought — would see the transfer of rail services that operate mostly or wholly within the Greater London boundary to Transport for London when the current franchises are due for renewal. This could include inner suburban rail services from London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Moorgate, Victoria and Waterloo.

Government’s support for the move come on the back of the success of the London Overground which has seen ridership soar since Transport for London took over the route.

The new agreement will look at ways to give millions of rail passengers a better experience by examining the potential for a wide range of improvements, including:

  • introducing more frequent services, more reliable trains, better interchanges and increased capacity
  • the creation of a London Suburban Metro service with the potential for more than 80% of stations to have a train every 15 minutes, up from 67% today, as well as the potential for more regular services via Clapham Junction, south east London and Kent
  • developing new rail lines to connect poorly serviced areas and to support new homes and jobs
  • creating a better travel environment, and improvements to accessibility and staffing
  • delivering a seamless and integrated service with joined up travel information

London mayor Boris Johnson described the move as a “seminal moment”.

”Our railways have been the workhorse of the London and south east economy since Victorian times. They’re key in the day-to-day lives of millions of people and vital to our future prosperity, and that’s exactly why this new partnership is such a seminal moment,” he said. “By working closely together and taking on these new services, we’re going to emulate the success of the London Overground and give the entire capital and surrounding areas the services they truly deserve.

London Overground

The development of London Overground has shown what can be achieved by giving greater focus to suburban services, with customers benefitting from staff at stations at all times while services are running, improved safety and a turn up and go service for customers with reduced mobility.

Launched in 2007 London Overground is an orbital rail network for the Capital, formed from existing railways, including some that were previously dilapidated or disused.

Ridership is up fourfold, delays are down and customers have gone from being among the least satisfied in the UK to among the most. Fare evasion is almost eradicated. These improving trends began immediately after launch, and before the effect of capital investment in new trains and infrastructure was felt.

London Overground’s success is down to effective partnership working between TfL, Network Rail and the train operator London Overground Railway Operations Limited (LOROL), plus the significant investment in the route. The contract with LOROL includes clear financial incentives to provide a consistently reliable and high-quality service.

Readers' comments (1)

  • A welcome move, but as well as investment on physical elements - trains, stations and track, effort will be needed on other elements of the interface with the travelling public - customer service, information at times of disruption, etc.
    The Overground brand is good, but risks being stretched too far. Consideration needs to be given to how to differentiate and name service groups within the overall brand. As an instance - the in-train map of the existing Overground service is getting very complex as the network expands, and risks compromising the strong heritage of TfL in the provision of passenger information.

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