Greater London Assembly backs devolution of Southeastern Metro services

Overground_roundel-with-question-markThe Transport Committee of the Greater London Assembly have backed the proposals to devolve Southeastern Metro services to Transport for London, in a report published today. This would including taking control of the Dunton Green services and bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks.

The Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association met the Committee during its review. Chairman Tony Clayton said:

“The GLA’s report shows the widespread support for TfL’s proposals, and shows how TfL’s “Concession” model can bring better services and trains and an integrated ticketing system using Oyster. The GLA’s suggestion of oversight by a Steering Group including Kent County Council and district councils would be an excellent way of ensuring democratic accountability and the strategic interests of Kent. We look forward to helping the local councils here in Sevenoaks, and TfL who we know well, develop the best service for Sevenoaks rail travellers.”

The GLA found that in running the existing London Overground network TfL has demonstrated its ability to deliver higher standards and sustained investment in the service, and can be held to account for its performance by the people it serves directly.

There were found to be strong potential benefits in the TfL proposals, including:

  • higher capacity
  • better reliability
  • a fare system that was integrated, simpler and cheaper
  • better accessibility
  • investment co-ordinated with the wider strategies for the development of the regional economy.

Around 68% of Southeastern passengers surveyed said that they wanted TfL to run their rail service. The current system was also criticised for its lack of democratic accountability:

“In the current system roles and responsibilities are diffuse and accountability is unclear. The line of democratic accountability that exists currently through Ministers to Parliament means that responsibility for train services is in actual fact remote from users. The current train operating companies are commercial enterprises and have no accountability to local people, except through the national regulatory regime.”

Devolution to TfL would not just be a change in the franchising authority. TfL use a different model for managing operating companies, and London TravelWatch has ascribed the stronger performance of the London Overground compared to other London services to TfL’s use of its “concession” model:

“The difference in outcome for passengers is attributable to the different incentives and contracting arrangements that the devolved London Overground concession uses, rather the conventional franchise arrangements. It does this by ensuring that the concessionaire concentrates, and is incentivised to focus, on the delivery and development of services, with the setting of issues such as fares policy and forward policy being dealt with by TfL centrally.”

Finally the Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association is quoted at length in the report:

“In 2013 the Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association supported the devolution of South Eastern metro services. We saw the benefits of payment by Oyster card, zonal fares which are potentially lower, improved service reliability, manned stations, a more efficient and quality focused franchising model, lower fare evasion, and the greater scope for longer term capacity enhancement as well worth having, and sustainable… We support it now for the same reasons as we did then.”

The Association looks forward to helping the local councils in Sevenoaks, and TfL who we know well, develop the best service for Sevenoaks rail travellers.

The full Greater London Assembly Transport Committee news release and report are available online.

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