Plans for Transport for London to take over rail routes in Surrey offer the chance to improve services for passengers and businesses “currently being let down”.
Responding to a consultation on the proposals, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning Mike Goodman (pictured) said Surrey’s rail network suffers “a lack of rail capacity and inadequate services”.
In a letter, he said the plans presented an opportunity for the TfL to work witih the council to provide more frequent trains and better connections that will drive economic growth but warned that any changes must not come at the expense of higher fares.
Under the plans, TfL will take over parts of the rail network currently run by operators such as Southern when contracts end. The South West Trains franchise is currently under negotiation but is likely to include a ‘break clause’ that means it could be taken over by 2020.
Surrey has already backed Crossrail 2, which was given the green light in last week’s Budget.
A copy of Mr Goodman’s letter is below.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the consultation on ‘A new approach to rail passenger services in London and the South East’.
Surrey is a £37 billion economy, an economic powerhouse with a strong, interconnected relationship with London. For an economy like Surrey to function and grow we need investment in world class rail infrastructure and fast, frequent rail passenger services serving the key economic centres in the county.
Surrey residents and businesses are currently being let down by a lack of rail capacity and inadequate services. The Department for Transport’s own statistics show that four of the country’s most overcrowded services are in Surrey and some of the county’s major towns suffer from infrequent, slow services. It is Surrey residents who in significant numbers are adding to the wealth creation of the City. We therefore view this ‘new approach’ as an important opportunity to work with Transport for London (TfL) to improve Surrey’s rail services and drive economic growth.
Broadly speaking, Surrey’s residents are probably not that interested in who their train operating company is. Yet residents do not want any changes to adversely impact upon train frequency, journey time, fares, hours of operation and quality of service.
There is potentially merit in TfL taking control of some inner suburban rail services. We recognise that better integration with the London rail network could bring benefits to Surrey residents and businesses in terms of more frequent services and better connectivity.
In considering changes in franchise, we would be keen to ensure that service frequencies are protected in Surrey, fares are kept low and the capacity of services is increased.
Clear and transparent governance arrangements are crucial. We expect a strong, formal role in overseeing those lines that serve the county. This will help to ensure that the voice of those passengers outside the capital is more clearly heard. It is important that timetables and stopping patterns reflect the needs of all communities along the line, balancing, equally, the needs of communities in London and Surrey. We hope that working closely with TfL as it seeks to ensure a better service for those that live and work in the capital will help us secure better services for Surrey residents.
Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning