Tory Transport Failings

Cllr Rezina Chowdhury's speech to full council about Boris' legacy and the Government's mishandling of Southern Rail:

Madam Mayor, 

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Rents are high, childcare is expensive, many people have not had a proper pay rise for years. But thanks to the Labour Mayor, after years of huge fare increases, TfL fares will be frozen until 2020. So what does that mean in practice?

  • Well, someone travelling from Vauxhall at peak time into work in central London will pay £2.40 for the next four years. Under Boris the cost of the same journey increased by 20%.
  • An adult 7 day bus and tram pass increased from £18.80 in 2012 to £21.60 in 2016 – up almost 13%. For the next four years, the pass will remain at £21.20. That’s good news for the many Streatham residents who rely on bus services.
  • Finally, take Cllr Briggs’ ward. A journey from Clapham South to London Bridge (Zone 1-2) increased from £2.50 in 2011 to £2.90 in 2016 - up 17 per cent. For the next four years, the fare will remain at £2.50.

By honouring his election pledge, the London Mayor has put £40m back into the pockets of Londoners. Over the next four years an average household will save around £200.

Perhaps Cllr Briggs would like to stand outside Clapham Common tube station and tell commuters that they were better off under Boris – a Mayor who put fares up by 42%, leaving Londoners paying some of the most expensive fares in Europe. But there is another reason why the Tories might be reluctant to face up to commuters.

Every day residents from Streatham are forced to endure the appalling service provided by Southern Rail. Southern are rock bottom of the passenger satisfaction table and the service is actually getting worse – satisfaction has fallen by 8% from last year. Their commitment to improving the service has been inadequate to say the least – emergency cancellations announced in July led to 341 trains per day being cut.

Even Southern bosses realise they are officially the worst train company in the country. But that doesn’t matter to them because their profits have soared and the company received a £20m bailout fund from the Government.

We know Chris Grayling has attempted to blame staff. But we can be certain that the responsibility for the delays, cancellations and overcrowding lies squarely with the operator.

The only proven way of improving services for passengers is giving control of suburban rail lines to TfL. TfL have transformed services where they have been handed control. Passenger satisfaction ratings have risen to 92% on the orbital line since TfL took over.

However, the proposed takeover of South London rail lines was blocked by Chris Grayling, in his words, to “Keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour Mayor.” The Secretary of State put politics over the needs of passengers, and as a result commuters will continue to suffer.

In his column for the Weekender Cllr Briggs said that “The Mayor has talked about ending the franchise early but the reality is that however poor Southern are managing, central government would simply not know how to run the franchise”.

However, TfL have demonstrated that they can turn around failing franchises:

The takeover of North London Railway by TfL ten years ago led to a transformation in service standards, journey numbers have risen 450%, stations are cleaner and better lit, more trains are arriving on time and passenger satisfaction has soared. Any reasonable person can see that the case for rail devolution is a very strong one.

Most of south London, despite 227 stations serving five million people, depends on suburban services which play second fiddle to long-distance rail firms.

The Overground network shows what can be done. The orbital line from Islington and Hackney to Peckham and Clapham took underused stations and services, upgraded, extended and linked them to create and integrated metro service under TfL control. Applying the Overground’s service standards would see all-day station staffing, refurbishment of stations, public information systems, improved lighting and maintenance and Oyster fare zones.

Madam Mayor, I would like to close by saying that we should all welcome the positive action the Mayor has taken to freeze fares. Unlike the Tory Government, he has shown he is on the side of commuters.

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