BORIS Johnson is set to gain control of suburban rail services after the transport secretary Justine Greening gave City A.M. the strongest indication yet that she is willing to hand him control of key commuter routes if he is re-elected on Thursday.
Under the proposals Transport for London (TfL) would have direct control over certain routes and run them on the same basis as the London Overground services.
Last night Johnson said: “The fractured organisation of London’s suburban railways is totally inefficient and needs a complete overhaul. My vision is for one integrated suburban service operating to the standards we have demonstrated can be achieved on London Overground, which is now one of the most reliable and popular railways in the UK.”
“This is an opportunity for Londoners. This service would be more punctual, more reliable, cheaper and would be integrated with the London Underground network.”
Johnson believes that he can improve staffing levels at stations and institute a “turn up and go” level of service on suburban routes – all while using cost savings to keep fares down for commuters.
He initially wants to take control of certain lines on the South Eastern and Greater Anglian networks when the existing privately held franchises are up for renewal in 2014.
This includes existing routes out of Charing Cross, London Bridge and Victoria to destinations such as Dartford, Hayes and Sevenoaks, in addition to services from Liverpool Street to Hertford East, Chingford and Enfield Town.
A new five-year national rail plan is due for publication in June and Greening has suggested she is willing to accede to Johnson’s demands.
“Boris has been making the case strongly for TfL to be given control over more rail services in London,” she said.
“We’re in the middle of a Government consultation on rail devolution. But if Boris is re-elected, we will give serious consideration to his proposals and work together to deliver a better rail network for London.”
Johnson has said that his plan could save up to £100m over 20 years by removing the need for private franchisees to build “risk premiums” into their ticket prices.
A spokesman for Ken Livingstone commented: “The agreement that Londoners really need to know about is by how much Johnson has promised the Tory government he will raise fares each year.”