Could TfL help Southern?

The nightmare of the dispute on Southern Rail has attracted the attention of the Mayor of London, who has called for Transport for London to take over the franchise.

Partly this is Sadiq Khan recognising that the commuters ferried to London every day by Southern are an important part of London’s talent pool, and that the Capital is less atractive as a business location as a result of the industrial relations carnage caused by the dispute over who closes the doors.

Services have been poor for some time now, and the franchise is running a reduced timetable as a result. Those suffering are the commuters and leisure travellers, and those who depend on their labour and custom. They would all agree that something needs to be done.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to Chris Grayling for the second time repeating his offer to put a TfL team in charge of what he describes as the ‘failing’ GTR Southern franchise.

In his letter to the Transport Secretary, the Mayor reiterated the urgency of putting a TfL team temporarily in control of the franchise that has failed passengers for many months.

Sadiq Khan said that in any other walk of life the service offered to paying customers by GTR Southern would not be tolerated, ‘so enough really is enough.’

The Mayor believes that TfL are best placed to sort out the problems with Southern.  He repeated that TfL would get a grip of this situation as they have expertise in running public transport services that are relied upon day in day out by millions of people. There is also recent experience of damaging industrial relations issues – with Tube stikes over night services and ticket office closures fresh in the memory.

The Mayor’s letter criticised the Government’s refusal to look into changing the management of the franchise, saying that TfL can deliver a far better service than Southern Rail by ‘immediately assigning an experienced team to fix the service.’

The principle of TfL taking on more rail services in the long term has already been accepted by your Department of Transport, as set out in the joint DfT/TfL rail prospectus earlier this year, and many are looking forward to TfL becoming Transport for the South East. Certainly their record of running complex, massive urban transport systems promises that such an arrangement could offer improvement for commuters all over the region.

Sadiq Khan’s letter urged the DfT to take action immediately as ‘passengers should not have to suffer any longer the appalling level of service they are currently forced to endure.

Southern’s long-suffering passengers would certainly agree.