'A complete cop out and failure' - Transport for London will NOT take over Southeastern services in 2018
PUBLISHED: 10:45 07 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:45 07 December 2016
Politicians on both sides from Kent and London had backed the plans
Commuters have been dealt ‘a slap in the face’ according to one MP, after a proposed coup of suburban rail services collapsed this week.
Cross-party support had been voiced for Southeastern’s metro services to be taken when then franchise runs out in 2018.
But today, in a major reshuffle of rail infrastructure, the transport secretary revealed rail franchises would work closer with Network Rail.
Bromley MP Bob Neill slammed the decision not to hand the franchise over Transport for London in 2018, when Southeastern’s tenure runs out.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Neill said: “My constituents will regard his failure to remove the London metro service from the wholly discredited Southeastern franchise as being a complete cop out and failure and certainly no sense at all as far rail users in my constituency or I am concerned.”
The potential takeover had seen support from KCC and MPs in Bexley and Bromley.
Proposed benefits would have included Oyster extensions into stations such as Gravesend, Sevenoaks and Greenhithe as well as extra trains running from Bexleyheath and Orpington.
Mr Grayling explained: “We will have the opportunity between London, my department and Kent to design an improved franchise for the future.
“My judgement is that we can achieve the benefit that TfL are arguing for through partnership rather than reorganisation.”
Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce was ‘bitterly disappointed’ by the news.
The Labour MP said: “This announcement, is a slap in the face to all those people who have to endure the misery of travelling on a substandard rail service in south east London.
“Devolution had won support across the political spectrum, such is the degree of anger and frustration about the performance of Southeastern.”
Sadiq Khan spoke with MPs last month regarding TfL’s potential takeover
Responding to today’s news, the Labour mayor said: “The only proven way of improving services for passengers is giving control of suburban rail lines to TfL.
“This is why the government and previous mayor published a joint prospectus earlier this year. There is cross-party support for this from MPs, assembly members, councils inside and out of London and businesses and their representatives.
“Anything short of this simply won’t make the improvements desperately needed. It is a fact, TfL lines have more frequent trains, fewer delays and cancellations, more staff at stations and fares are frozen. We will keep pushing the government to deliver the rail devolution they have promised and that is needed.”
But Bexleyheath and Crayford MP David Evennett has backed today’s announcement.
He said: “I am delighted with the announcements today to bring track and train operations closer together.”
“Southeastern aren’t delivering the service my constituents and fellow commuters deserve. I have strongly campaigned for improvements across the network, and the Government has responded by putting the interests of passengers first”.
“Whoever the franchise is awarded to in 2018 must do better, and I will continue to press the government to get the best deal possible for local rail users”.
KCC’s transport chief Matthew Balfour said: “While we are disappointed with the secretary of state’s decision, as we had carefully negotiated our ‘red lines’ with the Mayor and Transport for London which would have protected the interests of Kent’s rail passengers, Kent County Council accepts the government’s decision.
“We welcome the offer of co-operation with the Mayor and TfL as we already have a good working relationship at member and officer level.
“This will enable the authorities in both parts of the new franchise area to ensure the best rail service for all passengers using the new Southeastern franchise.
“KCC will respond as planned to the public consultation in early 2017, as the council’s aspiration will continue to be a better rail service for all Kent’s rail passengers in the new franchise.”
A revised franchise schedule was also publish today, with a consultation expected to start in February 2017, with the invitation to tender in September 2017 and the award of the new contract in August 2018.
The new franchise is then set to commence in December 2018.