London calling

02 February 2012

Devolution is all the rage. It is likely some rail powers will be marked up in a forthcoming devolution consultation from the Department for Transport (DfT). So far the debate has focused on relatively uncontroversial issues like Northern and Transpennine somehow being franchised by a northern local government coalition and Cornish branch lines. But what about London – if devolution is good for some place, why not metro type services in London?

The Mayor has a clear ambition to gain more control over London rail services. It is difficult to see how this can be resisted. Transport for London’s (TfL) track record on rail has been very positive – the London Overground is a great success. You always feel that metro services are the poor relations in train companies – our National Passenger Survey shows this is the case. The management attention always seems to be on longer distance services where perhaps more revenue lies. Much of the rail industry seems like a Home Counties affair – few of the senior management live in London.

Running dense, metro type services looks like a business that needs sustained, very high levels of management attention and investment. Passengers deserve the chance to put their opinions in about the operation of London’s commuter services. While passengers don’t care who runs services, they do want to know who is in charge. Could TfL convince them and would the DfT let them?

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