TfL To Take Over London's Suburban Rail Routes

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 28 months ago
TfL To Take Over London's Suburban Rail Routes
Photo by Andrew Smith from the Londonist Flickr pool

Transport for London (TfL) could take over all suburban rail services, which will see routes all across the capital come under London Overground for the first time.

A lot of people will say it's about bloody time. We said last week that many living on Southern and Southeastern routes have been asking for this for years; well the Department for Transport and City Hall are finally sorting this out. The plans — which aren't concrete yet, but it's hard to work out what could scupper them — are for a London Suburban Metro service, which could take in services to London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Moorgate, Victoria and Waterloo.

Over 80% of stations would have a train every 15 minutes, new rail connections would be developed, the trains should get better and passengers would experience better stations, staffing and accessibility. A Centre for London report last week detailed more possibilities of how bringing rail under TfL control could make travelling better.

Southeastern would be the first franchise to come into TfL's fold in 2018, South West Trains has a 'break clause' that could be invoked in 2019, and Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern would follow in 2021. So this isn't going to happen overnight, but it's something to cling to when waiting for your train that's been delayed for the fourth time in a row.

Mayor Boris Johnson said

Our railways have been the workhorse of the London and south east economy since Victorian times. 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.

Ben Rogers, director at Centre for London, sounded a note of caution about south London, borne out of their recent research:

If we are going to meet the growing pressures on south London's public transport system we will need to double capacity in its rail network. This will require major investment, from central government, beyond what can be funded from TfL and business contributions. Without spending on signalling and train management systems, new trains and better platform management, London could still grind to a halt.

Last Updated 22 January 2016

Continued below.

Ed Richardson

This is good news, but : the orange overground it ain't.

TfL has experience of integrating routes into the Overground, that were previously very secondary in nature. Overground as a concept works, because it has control and is the majority operator of train services on its core routes. The inner-suburban routes do not fit with this model, the network is already trafficked to capacity, and the predominance of services on the main lines will remain with the National Rail TOC.

Its going to be a different thing, and needs a different brand to "Overground"


It doesn't really matter who is badged as running the trains, if notwork rail's track, signals and infrastructure in general is in such a poor state then nobody is going to be able to run the service everybody would like, especially as demand is ever increasing but the service is already operating at over maximum capacity!

A HUGE amount of money needs to be spent over a LONG period to even stand still on this, but the customers don't have the patience any longer, and the government is unlikely to want to stump up the money either now or later. Nationalisation is not a simple solution... Notwork rail is already nationalised, and this is where most of the problems ALREADY stem from!!

Fred Smith

As I understand it, about one billion of investment is needed to untangle south London's rail network to solve the underlying infrastructure problems contributing to poor operator performance. A plan and a commitment to that investment is needed as much as any change of operators.


I don't think that the whole network should be go orange and plonked onto the tube map: that would be seriously confusing. However, certain key lines such as Thameslink could be rebranded as primary metro lines, similar to how the current Overground has been included on the map.

Melvyn Windebank

The first move could be to transfer control / ownership of most stations in Greater London to TFL this would then allow a short term quick fix as seen when TFL have taken over stations for Overground while longer term plans to rebuild and upgrade stations would no longer be affected by short franchises that TOCs are awarded.

Longer term plans could include creation of new interchange stations where lines cross or at places like Brockley where there is a station. on one route but another route crosses above but has no platforms thus interchange opportunity is missed.

As for Trains they are one area where a combination of TFL and private funding via ROSCOs could fund new trains .

As for operation of services well some might like existing Overground be by a concession let by TFL while others might be by joint franchises involving private companies who would control services outside London but at direction of TFL within London.

Sorting out the 3rd rail network in south London would involve building more grade separated junctions or shorter versions of Crossrail ( e.g a tunnel with stations linking Love ndon Bridge to Waterloo to connect Southern and South West Trains via a through route like Thameslink !).


It's inevitable. Remember when our Oyster cards wouldn't work on rail stations as they were outside the TfL network? No ofcourse not, because it feels that long ago even though its just been 4 or 5 years.

In 4 or 5 years (or a little more) we will also never remember that time when rail was its own thing in London.

As for cash, TfL have a huge amount of reserves, something like £4 billion (about half which is locked down for crossrail though). It will cost money, probably somewhere in the region of £250m. TfL could potentially look for private funding sources to speed up the process as well.

Greg Tingey

Could might, possibly.
NOT: "TfL to take over London Rail services"
Sloppy reporting
Trry "London Reconnections" for some facts, eh?