London’s Mayor has renewed calls for Southeastern Rail Metro services to be devolved to Transport for London (TfL), writes Clara Gaspar…
Sadiq Khan has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, urging him to put the needs of London’s long-suffering passengers first.
It is yet to be announced which company will be awarded the South-Eastern rail franchise, and the decision has already been delayed by three-months after none of the three bidders has afforded passengers confidence that they could operate services efficiently.
This lack of a sufficient bidder has prompted Khan to urge Grayling to seize the opportunity to formulate a fresh approach.
Khan said: “These passengers deserve so much better than they are currently getting and I believe now is the time for a fresh start.
“The Government could make the most of this delay by working with me to put passengers first by transferring responsibility for contracting these Metro services to TfL.
“Their expertise would provide the more frequent and reliable services these passengers are crying out for.”
Southeastern presently has one of the lowest recorded passenger satisfaction scores (75%) of any British rail operator.
Services between Euston and Watford, Stratford and Richmond and Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction were taken over by TfL in 2007, and currently achieves considerably higher customer satisfaction, at 83-85%.
More than a thousand commuters have signed a petition arguing to ‘Stop Southeastern Trains from being awarded franchise renewal.’
— UK Rail Fail (@RailFailUK) August 14, 2018
In response to the Mayor’s comments, Lambeth and Southwark London Assembly Member, Florence Eshalomi AM, said: “Southeastern services have been mediocre at best, and sit near the bottom of the table when it comes to customer satisfaction.
“Local people using these services deserve better, and this is why I am fully behind the Mayor’s calls for Southeastern Metro services to be placed into the more reliable hands of TfL and London Overground.
“With the announcement of who will take over the franchise delayed by three months, this is the perfect opportunity for the Secretary of State for Transport to actually listen to south Londoners who want to see urgent improvements made to their daily commute”.
A spokesman for Southeastern said: “Decisions on the way rail franchises are structured and awarded are made by Government.
“We’ve invested £80 million to improve our services since 2014, including 68 extra carriages to boost capacity on our busiest services, nearly £5 million in station refurbishments, and new ‘Customer Ambassadors’ to help assist passengers with their journeys.”
This is not the first time this year that private rail operators have come under fire.
Khan called in June for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to be stripped of its licence, following more than a month of disruption after the introduction of new timetables in May.
GTR’s rail network includes Southern rail and Thameslink services, a position supported by Dulwich and West Norwood MP, Helen Hayes.
In a formal statement published on June 20, the operator said it its new schedule had begun to deliver a more reliable service, with 200 extra trains running on weekdays compared to the previous timetables, claiming that ‘punctuality and reliability’ were ‘returning to levels achieved before the May timetable change’.
“Some 200 extra trains are now running each weekday across the network compared to the period prior to the introduction of the May timetable.
Chief executive Patrick Verwer said: “My priority is to ensure passengers have the punctual service they are promised, and the new interim timetable is starting to achieve that.
“While the overall picture has improved, some infrastructure problems beyond our control have impacted services.”
GTR & Southeastern new timetable chaos simply unacceptable. I’ve written to Rail Minister, GTR & Southeastern & meeting them next week. Latest misery follows 3 yrs of unreliability – time for failing operators to be stripped of franchises & services passed to Transport for London
— Helen Hayes (@helenhayes_) June 1, 2018