London Assembly slams rail and calls for strategic plan
LONDON has a failing rail network with trains that are too small, too infrequent and too unreliable.
That’s the conclusion of Broken Rails, a report from London Assembly’s transport committee that calls for Network Rail to deliver a plan containing strategic and targeted upgrades for metro services that it says have been promised for years.
Committee Chairman Caroline Pidgeon said: “Our recommendations set out priorities including investment to allow more frequent and longer trains to run on London’s suburban rail network - a metro-style service that we have long been promised, and better accessibility to stations for cyclists, pedestrians and passengers with disabilities.
“We are also calling for a rail strategy for London, in order that TfL and Network Rail can ensure a sharper, joined-up focus on delivering for London’s rail passengers. For London’s rail network to thrive, and for passengers to get the service they deserve, we challenge the Mayor, TfL and Network Rail to deliver on the priorities set out in our report.”
The committee says its key demand is that NR delivers “the large number of small-scale interventions” to allow more and bigger trains to run.
Its report doesn’t detail any of these interventions. Meanwhile, many operators already run 12-car trains into London, while others such as South Western Railway are bringing in new fleets with increased capacity.
Other recommendations include calling on NR, train operators and Transport for London to create user groups for every station; that NR and TfL create a single rail strategy for London; that the Department for Transport increases ‘Access for All’ funding; and that TfL considers all options for increasing London rail funding.
The report says that the Transport Committee continues to support its predecessor’s call for heavy rail services in London to be devolved from DfT franchises to the London Mayor’s control.
TfL and NR should jointly own London’s strategic rail plan, according to the committee. It welcomes moves by DfT and NR towards greater track-and-train integration, but is concerned that this will continue to leave London’s services fragmented over several routes and operators.
It suggests that a strategic plan would make the case for funding stronger by having clear priorities and a narrative around how more money could unlock jobs, housing and growth. This could also unlock third-party funding, it suggests.
The London Mayor has a series of rail investments that include completing Crossrail, continuing to plan Crossrail 2, extending the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham, creating a suburban metro network, and delivering station capacity improvements.
The mayor is also promoting a plan to create a West London Orbital line using the Dudding Hill freight route. This line would connect Hounslow with Hendon and West Hampstead via Old Oak Common and Harlesden. Old Oak Common is one of four strategic interchanges promoted in last spring’s Mayoral Transport Strategy (the others are Clapham Junction, Lewisham and Stratford).
The mayor’s strategy notes that Clapham Junction and Stratford are established hubs, while Lewisham is a local hub that would need a major upgrade and more frequent rail connections to take on a strategic role. Old Oak Common will be the site of a HS2 station, with the Mayor hoping to deliver further transport improvements (such as a station) to allow interchange with local orbital services.