TfL's London Overground to take control of capital's entire suburban rail network
Embattled commuters should finally get more frequent and reliable train services after Transport for London confirmed today it would take control of the capital's suburban rail network.
The long-running campaign to persuade ministers to devolve powers over services should increase capacity, eventually bringing an end to the cattle truck conditions for millions of Londoners, and improve accessibility.
TfL plans to streamline fares and travel information across the whole suburban rail network, rebranding the services London Overground and turning the capital's transport map orange.
Commuter services running from Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Moorgate, Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge, which has suffered some of the worst delays, would all be transferred under the plans.
With the capital's population set to rise from 8.6 million today to 10 million by 2030, the proposals should ensure the network is able to cope, especially in South London which is heavily reliant on surface rail.
The new era for rail travel was hailed a victory for Boris Johnson who has spearheaded the campaign, which has cross-party support and was first initiated by Ken Livingstone, to take over control of each route as its franchise comes up for renewal.
The Mayor told the Standard: "Our railways have been the workhorse of the London and South East economy since Victorian times.
"They're key to 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.
"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."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “We are committed to making journeys better across London and the South East, and this new partnership represents a huge opportunity to transform travel by putting passengers where they should be – at the heart of the rail network."
The first route to come under the next Mayor's control will be Southeastern in 2018, followed by Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services in 2021.
The South West trains franchise is currently under negotiation but is likely to include a "break clause" that means it could be taken over in 2019.
TfL, which will set up a joint management team with the Department of Transport, will run services which operate within the capital's boundaries while DfT officials will be responsible for the wider South East.
The Mayor's control could stretch as far as Sevenoaks and Dartford in the South East, Epsom and Croydon in the South, Hampton and Chessington in the West and Hertford and Welwyn Garden City in the North.
It could mean that more than 80 per cent of stations have a train every 15 minutes, up from 67 per cent today.
Since TfL took over suburban rail routes from Silverlink in 2007 and created London Overground, passenger numbers on the routes have increased sixfold and the network has become one of the most popular railways anywhere in the country.
The proposal means town halls, local enterprise partnerships and other regional bodies could play a more hands on role in how services are planned.
Unlike most of the existing franchise agreements, income from fares would be handed over to TfL to invest in the network, for example bringing in new walk-through trains with more doors and staffing 100 per cent of stations during operating hours.
However, huge sums would still be needed to bring the network up to scratch, especially across South London where demand is highest, at a time when TfL's finances will be under pressure.
City Hall insiders suggested cash for investment could also be raised from the land value increase around stations, as well as from Network Rail and the Government.