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Williams Review

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour

What representations will you be making to the Williams Review in respect of London’s over-ground rail services?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The current rail system is broken beyond repair, with large dysfunctional franchises not fit for purpose. Customers have suffered substandard service for too long, so I welcome the Williams Review. Both my Deputy Mayor for Transport [Heidi Alexander] and TfL officials have met with the review team a number of times, including on Keith Williams’ very first day in the role, and also last week as part of the Urban Transport Group, where together with cities across the UK they made the case for devolution. They have presented my view that devolving services and infrastructure would give Londoners and commuters the high standards of services seen on the London Overground and TfL rail.

The benefits of devolution are clear and TfL submitted a response to the review, making the case for it. When services have transferred to London Overground or TfL over rail, the evidence speaks for itself. The frequency of trains increases, every station is staffed, delays decrease and accessibility improves. The ability to run an integrated network controlled and operated at a local level has been the backbone of London’s success as a leading global city. For local services in and around London devolution would mean TfL rather than the Department for Transport (DfT) being the contracting authority and TfL rather than Network Rail taking on infrastructure management on these routes.

TfL has separately put forward a compelling case for a London suburban metro in its strategic case for metroisation. This would relieve congestion and improve frequencies and journeys for Londoners. Both TfL’s response to the review and the strategic case for metroisation have been published on TfL’s website. Separately the DfT has begun reviewing the Thames Link, Southern and the Great Northern franchise. TfL is working closely with them on this and I understand that the initial discussion has been productive. TfL looks forward to continuing to work with the DfT and the Williams Review to improve the rail network.

Florence Eshalomi AM: Thank you, Mr Mayor. In addition to that, what additional feedback have you had from Keith Williams or the DfT in respect of the five recommendations that TfL made to the Williams Review back in March?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, it is probably unwise for me to give a running commentary, but the meetings, according to the briefings I can tell you about, are productive and positive. We know that earlier this week Mr Williams called for somebody independent from Government to be in charge of data separations. We will review what else he said in his speech. In line with our submission, Mr Williams has publicly stated a number of times that passengers must be at the heart of the railway service. A one-size-fits-all model does not work. Without going into details, we are optimistic that there will be some progress made, because frankly the status quo is not working.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour

That is really important. I attended a Southwark Assembly meeting yesterday and a number of issues raised by both councillors and a number of community groups there was around the fact that the overcrowding and congestion on a number of routes through Southwark is quite worrying. They want passengers put back at the heart of that. Do you feel that if we have Prime Minister Boris Johnson elected next week, will he advocate for rail devolution down to London on a number of those key routes, including the Govia Thameslink Railway route, which is up for renegotiation, or to scrap that franchise in 2021? Time is ticking on that.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Boris Johnson, when he was the Mayor, was a passionate advocate for devolution. He was the Mayor whom the Government agreed with to devolve these train operator companies down to London. It beggars belief that he would change his mind if he becomes Prime Minister and performs a U‑turn. I am optimistic and excited that if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister we will make rapid progress in the devolution of rail services for TfL and London.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour

It would be helpful, Mr Mayor, maybe, if Boris Johnson is elected Prime Minister, we could write a strong letter reminding him of his previous commitments and outlining especially the fact that all the additional contracts and staff rotas have to be discussed with TfL if that route is going to be devolved down.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, and to reassure you, when Boris Johnson was Mayor he agreed with the Government on this deal. It was only when the Secretary of State changed from Patrick McLoughlin [MP] to Chris Grayling [MP] that the Government performed a U‑turn. I am optimistic about the chances of this happening sooner rather than later with Boris Johnson, the former Mayor, as the Prime Minister.