Should Livingstone be the fat controller?

Transport for London will make a bid tomorrow to become the fat controller of London’s overland railways.  London’s abysmal commuter railway service is often overshadowed by the dramas of the underground network but in many ways the service offered is just as unreliable.

Whilst it is good that Ken Livingstone is belatedly looking into the Overground railways, London Assembly Conservatives have a number of questions surrounding the proposals. These include:

· Most of London’s commuter services also have stops outside of London’s boundaries. Are Transport for London (TfL) proposing to take over the running of services outside the capital’s boundary?

· What London needs is more peak hour trains. This will mean signalling and timetable changes. How would this correspond with the inter city services outside the capital using the same lines and their franchise operators promises to run more services?

· What will the impact be on the present operating franchises? Will TfL have to pay compensation to them and will that be borne by the council taxpayer?

· What capabilities do the current staff at TfL have to operate the railways?

· Ken Livingstone has let the subsidy level for buses rise from £90 million in 2000 to a predicted £1 billion by 2009-2010. Is he really the best man to control the already rampant subsidy levels on the railways?

Roger Evans, London Assembly Conservatives Transport Spokesman, said:

“London’s overground rail network is in many respects less reliable than the Underground but often gets overlooked. Improvements urgently need to be made but I doubt that TfL is best placed to provide them. What top level experience does TfL have at operating Overground railways?”

“If Livingstone’s questioning of the record of the SRA focuses politicians minds more on the Overground railway and slightly less on the Underground then many Londoners will be grateful. Having seen the mess he has made of the finances on the buses however I doubt there will be much enthusiasm for his proposals.”

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