Conservatives support Assembly's call for rail devolution rethink

Greenwich Conservatives are supporting a unanimous call from London Assembly members for a rethink on rail devolution, after it was announced last week that the management of the Southeastern franchise would not be handed over to Transport for London by the Department for Transport as expected.

On Wednesday the Secretary of State for Transport instead announced plans for "integrated operating teams" between train operating companies and Network Rail, starting with Southeastern, with Transport for London invited to help with the design of London’s commuter franchises.

The Department said it had been unconvinced by the business plan presented by the Mayor of London for the transfer of franchise management to Transport for London, on the basis this it did not involve increases in capacity and would involve too large a reorganisation. The move was followed by criticism of the Mayor of London’s overall TfL Business Plan on Thursday, which includes a 46% increase in borrowing and delays to planned investments across the capital.

London Assembly members from all parties passed a motion on Wednesday highlighting cross party support for further rail devolution in London, stating their belief that "through TfL, London is already well-placed to provide solutions to the challenges of transport provision in our capital", and asking the Secretary of State "to reconsider his decision not to devolve franchise management to TfL, which has a proven record of delivering to a high standard".

Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said: "We fully support the motion passed unanimously at City Hall, with the backing of Conservative Assembly Members and those from all other parties, on Wednesday.

"Everyone, including the government, agrees that the status quo is not an option - and what has been proposed is anything but, with welcome plans to bring together 'track and train' and put an end to the blame game between operators like Southeastern and Network Rail when things go wrong. TfL has also been invited to help design the new franchise.

"Ultimately, however, there is cross-party agreement across London, and from Kent County Council, that what is needed is a full transfer of management of the franchise to TfL. After years of frustration, it's time to take that radical step to deliver the improvements that commuters desperately need to see.

“At the same time, the Department for Transport may have been more easily convinced of this case if they had more confidence in Sadiq Khan’s plans to Transport for London overall – which as we have now seen confirmed in black and white, involve reckless borrowing and investment delays over the coming years.”

Councillor Matt Clare, Greenwich Conservatives Transport Spokesperson, added: "Southeastern commuters have suffered long enough from this failing company. By contrast, Transport for London have shown they can deliver with the Overground. We hope there will be a rethink so that commuters get the service they deserve."