TfL wishes to take administrative control of London surburban services in order to specify higher standards and develop a fully integrated transport system.
The Government announced the results of its rail industry and structure review on 15 July 2004. Under the new rail structure, the Mayor will progressively obtain more powers over rail services operating in and around London. These powers include fares, frequencies and station improvements.
The only agreed movement so far is that from 11 November 2007, TfL will take over the franchise management of all Silverlink Metro's services (collectively known as North London Railway). These include:
London Overground logo
(© TfL 2006)
The services will be branded as "London Overground" by TfL, using a roundel similar to the Underground logo but orange rather than red. Trains, stations and publicity will all use this style, and Overground routes will appear together on the Tube map (see a TfL mock-up). Much more information is available on the project page for London Overground and Orbirail.
Why transfer control
TfL states that more than 70% of rail journeys start or finish in London, and 33% are wholly within London; 42% of morning peak travellers into London travel by rail.
London's population is expected to grow by 800,000 with an extra 630,000 jobs, and TfL see control over the local rail network as vital to meeting local needs.
If TfL take control of financing the London local rail network it would also take on any risks involved.
Three major projects - Crossrail, Thameslink 2000 and the East London Line extensions, have all been under control of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) which is now to be abolished, with power passing to the Department for Transport (DfT). The East London Line extension has been entirely transferred to TfL.
The Rail Review states that the government will pursue a "greater role in relation to new or self-contained infrastructure" for TfL. This implies more control in these key infrastructure projects.
TfL believes that some "quick wins" can be made through alterations to timetables (particular what it sees as outdated timetables) and stopping patterns. This would almost certainly include raising off-peak services to 4tph and simplifying stopping patterns across any portions of the network where possible and appropriate, as part of the Overground Network branding scheme (not to be confused with London Overground).
Fares & Oyster
The DfT recently specified that TfL's zonal fares should be rolled out to all rail services within London by 2007, with a phased approach being taken to achieve this with an individual train company at a time.
Hopefully this rollout will be accompanied by Oyster rollout across the network, allowing prepay to be used across almost all London public transport. TfL already offered to install Oyster sales equipment at all London rail stations free of charge, but the train operating companies rejected the offer, probably because Oyster is incompatible with the smartcard standard (ITSO) which National Rail might use in the future. The new powers afforded by administrative control would allow TfL to "force" proper Oyster rollout across London rail services.
The Mayor said that the rejection by the train companies was a big obstacle to the rollout of prepay to suburban rail, and one TOC - South West Trains - had even demanded payment for having to deal with Oyster, despite the free equipment installation.
However, the DfT has asked bidders for the new South Western franchise to accept Oyster pay-as-you-go from January 2009, when ticket gates are expected to be introduced at Waterloo. Zonal fares would arrive before that date. [DfT South Western stakeholder briefing]
Although some returns on National Rail are cheaper than their Tube equivalents, TfL cite cases such as discrepancy in single prices to support the creation of a simpler zonal fare structure. For example, Cockfosters to Heathrow is £3.80 but Croydon to Heathrow is £7.00 (both similar distances). Radial trips not including Zone 1 are also more expensive on National Rail - for example Shepherd's Bush to West Drayton is £5.00 but the maximum LU single fare within zones 2-6 is £2.10 (£1.80 on Oyster).
In the Rail Review, the government said that "in the short term, we will work with the Mayor on proposals to rationalise fare structures and ticketing technology across different types of public transport in London. This will include the setting of Travelcard fares."
For the Rail Review, TfL proposed to the government the creation of a "London Regional Rail Authority", similar to authorities for other cities around the world, with control over not just inner-London services but some suburban services which extend outside London.
Under this plan, ALL routes within London and the following routes which extend out of London would come under LRRA control (see a map, 5MB PDF):
The Rail Review's answer is fourfold.
The DfT has stated that the winner of the future South Western railway franchise, which starts in 2007, will have to accept Oyster pay-as-you-go for journeys within London as part of their franchise commitments.
The Department for Transport are consulting on proposals to give the Mayor abilities to procure extra suburban rail services or to reduce them (in agreement with local authorities) in order to spend the savings on other transport uses.
The DfT has announced that control of North London rail services currently operated by Silverlink Metro will pass to TfL from 11 November 2007. TfL's London Rail division will run the franchise-awarding process and will seek enhanced train frequencies, staff at every station and the roll-out of Oyster Prepay to the four routes coming under its control - the North and West London Lines, the Barking to Gospel Oak line, and the Watford to Euston local service. TfL will also order new trains and enhance stations to a higher standard.
TfL have produced a plan for the overground rail network which proposes a massive package of platform and train lengthening, bottleneck removal through the construction of flyovers or diveunders and signal upgrading to improve frequencies. TfL say the improvements are vital to support the job creation and population boom in the London area.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has issued a report into transport in the South East which calls for the creation of a rail authority which sets timetables, regulates peak fares and sets train operator contracts across the South East. However, they do not believe that TfL control of south east rail services would be the right solution.
Tory shadow secretary for transport, Tim Yeo, said that the ability of train companies to respond effectively to customer demand will be hampered if too much governmental control is exercised, particularly in London if the Mayor has control over train services.
The Mayor has welcomed the Department for Transport's decision to give greater power over the London suburban rail network to his Transport for London organisation. TfL stated that they would work with the Government to deliver improvements as soon as possible, including the extension of the Oyster card scheme.
The government's Rail Review, whose results were announced today, has specified greater control for the Mayor over London's rail services. In the short term, fare structures and "ticketing technology" (i.e. Oyster) will be "rationalised" across the Travelcard area - which could mean the roll-out of Oyster pre-pay to the overground rail network. In the medium term, the government expects to give the Mayor full control over London-only services, and in the the long term, a higher degree of control over other surburban services which run to points outside London. There is also scope for the Mayor to "buy additional services or propose savings" where required.
TfL has submitted its response to the rail review, saying that the government's Strategic Rail Authority has insulated itself from passenger unhappiness with the rail system - and it accuses the SRA of shifting subsidy to lesser-used regional services.
Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone unveiled the Labour manifesto for the London mayoral elections, which includes the proposed takeover of overground rail services by Transport for London.
The mayor told the London Assembly that transport minister Tony McNulty's preference is for TfL to be given suburban rail control - a fact which could help the mayor's bid.
Information from inside the Department for Transport suggests that the Mayor's plan to bring rail services in London under TfL's control will be rejected as too fragmentary.
The Association of Train Operating Companies, which represents all TOCs, has dismissed TfL's proposed London Regional Rail Authority as a "pointless distraction" as there were too few rail services based solely in London.
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