- a guide to transport projects in london Modes of transport

Rail London Rail Authority

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:

  • North London Line (Richmond - North Woolwich)
  • West London Line (Willesden Junction - Clapham Junction)
  • GOBLIN (Gospel Oak - Barking)
  • West Coast Main Line DC (Euston - Watford Junction all stations)
London Overground logo,  Transport for London 2006
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.

Instant improvements

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]

Integrated fares

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."

Regional control

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):

  • Chiltern: Aylesbury via Amersham & High Wycombe
  • Silverlink: Metro services to Watford Junction, the Croxley Link and Watford - St Albans Abbey
  • Thameslink: Luton to Gatwick Airport
  • Great Northern: Stevenage
  • West Anglia: Hertford East & Stansted Airport
  • Great Eastern: Shenfield
  • LTS: Basildon & Tilbury
  • Kent Link: Dartford
  • South Eastern: Swanley, Otford & Sevenoaks
  • South Central: Oxted, Gatwick Airport, Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Epsom Downs, Dorking
  • South West: Guildford, Working, Shepperton, Virginia Water, Windsor & Eton Riverside
  • Great Western: Slough / Windsor & Eton Central

The Rail Review's answer is fourfold.

  1. "We also propose to explore urgently options for giving an increased role to the Mayor on discrete services that lie entirely, or almost entirely, within the GLA boundary."

    This means that in particular Silverlink's North London Line, West London Line and Gospel Oak - Barking Line could come under control of the Mayor rather than the DfT (Silverlink would still operate these services but under orders from the Mayor). This change could happen soon.

  2. "Going forward, the Government proposes that the Mayor should be able to buy additional services or propose savings. [...] in particular, there would need to be capacity on the network for any additional services, and Transport for London would need to pay any additional costs (or would recoup any savings, if that were the case)."

    This responds to TfL's desire to alter the frequency and stopping patterns of inner-London services to maximise capacity. It could also mean expansion of the Overground Network branding pilot as the Mayor "buys" more frequent evening and weekend services.

  3. "We will also consider whether the Mayor should be able to specify service levels directly, and whether there should be any scope for Transport for London to take revenue risk from train companies for services within the GLA boundary. [...] the Mayor would need a budget to cover the cost of rail services. This would also allow Transport for London to prioritise spending on rail."

    This addresses TfL's longer-term aspirations to fund the suburban network themselves and therefore prioritise projects as they see fit.

  4. "Because the London commuter rail network does not stop at the GLA boundary, we will look at whether it is feasible to give Transport for London the right to specify and pay for services in an area slightly bigger than Greater London that makes more sense in rail transport terms."

    This addresses TfL's vision of controlling all London services by having power over those which run to points outside the capital. However, before this happens, the government will consult with neighbouring local authorities. This proposal is far from definite.


(newest first)
South West franchise winner to accept Oyster pay-as-you-go
2006-03-21 16:16:17

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.

DfT consults on extra rail powers for Mayor
2006-03-09 16:39:13

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.

TfL to get control of Silverlink Metro
2006-02-20 13:37:47

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 vision for rail capacity enhancement
2005-11-19 07:13:01

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.

Report calls for South East rail authority
2005-02-15 12:42:06

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.

Rail powers for Mayor worry Tories
2004-11-16 16:34:17

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.

TfL welcome greater rail powers
2004-07-16 12:06:50

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.

Mayor to be given greater rail control
2004-07-15 12:46:19

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 attacks an SRA "insulated from passengers"
2004-05-11 10:47:52

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.

PM backs manifesto pledge to take over trains
2004-05-07 10:52:03

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.

McNulty could help rail powers through
2004-05-05 16:32:51

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.

DfT set to turn down London Rail Authority plans
2004-04-19 14:27:29

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.

ATOC dismisses TfL takeover plans as "pointless"
2004-03-26 08:41:18

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.

Links & Sources

  1. TfL: Proposal for London Regional Rail Authority
  2. TfL: "London Overground" launch
  3. TfL: Map of London Overground services

Related Projects [list all projects | about | links of interest]