Ken Livingstone has produced an eight-point plan for London's suburban rail network. If he wins in May, he says he would ditch the hated franchises and bring routes under TfL's control, much as he did with London Underground during his time as Mayor.
The Labour candidate pledged to put at least four trains an hour through each station during the week, make stations cleaner, safer and better staffed, install 'state of the art' information systems, improve cycle parking and accessibility and bring fares in line with the tube (something that's being called a fares cut, but on some lines the national rail-only fare is cheaper than TfL).
London Overground is a huge success story – the new trains are a joy to ride and the service scored 96% in last year's National Passenger Survey (with the exception of the Richmond/Clapham-Stratford route, flagging at 80%) where other Train Operating Companies' metro routes struggle to make it to 85%. Passengers numbers are increasing in excess of general demand for rail travel: last month, London Reconnections looked at the Overground's usage stats and we particularly like their assessment that
general increased demand for rail travel in London and the South East is only a small part of the story – just as important have been the three basic principles on which the original Overground principle was pitched. This was that a good metro service should be clean, reliable and frequent – get that right and the passengers will follow.
Of course, this patchwork of different companies and daily seething commuter rage could have been avoided as far back as 1933, when rail was excluded from the London Passenger Transport Board. Bloody Herbert Morrison, eh?