Transport for London should take over more of London's metro rail lines, argues London Assembly Member Darren Johnson.
The latest chapter in the London Overground success story got underway on Sunday as Transport for London (TfL) took control of rail services between Liverpool Street and Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town. The move will see upgrades to all existing trains and an immediate makeover for the 23 stations on the line, many of which have suffered years of under-investment.
New ticket machines, deep-cleaning of both rolling stock and stations are the order of the day. There will also be staff at stations from the first to last trains of the day — a measure which makes travelling so much more secure for passengers. New trains will follow in summer 2018 and passengers could also benefit from lower fares and concessionary travel.
Since its establishment in 2007, Londoners have flocked to the ginger line. The Overground consistently achieves the lowest complaints rate of any train operating company in the independent Office for Rail Responsibility’s rankings and the Mayor ultimately carries the can for any performance issues that do crop up.
As commuters using London Bridge station in recent months have come to learn only too well, the lack of direct accountability that is part and parcel of non-devolved rail has a significant and detrimental effect on passengers. The ongoing chaotic situation at London Bridge rail station that has seen dangerous crushes, cancellations and delays would surely have been nipped in the bud much faster were Boris Johnson’s job on the line.
TfL, having also integrated West Anglia and Liverpool Street to Shenfield rail services into its network, now operate three quarters of all journeys in and out of Liverpool Street station. It’s hard to imagine daily London Bridge-esque meltdowns playing out there if the Mayor and his transport commissioner were being dragged over the coals for such a shambles by the London Assembly and others.
The new government will want to pursue its localism agenda with fresh vigour and making the Mayor of London accountable to Londoners for metro rail services should be at the heart of that project. It would make a tangible difference to peoples’ daily lives.