Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin are backing proposals for Transport for London to take over several rail lines across the capital.
This would mean that each of these routes would then have to comply with Transport for London’s accessibility standards, including having “Turn Up and Go” assistance available at these stations. Currently, disabled and older people are advised to book 24hours in advance if they wish to use rail stations.
24-hour Freedom Pass
The move has raised hopes that if the plans go ahead, the Freedom Pass would be valid 24hours on all London rail lines, as it is on all routes currently operated by TfL. At the moment, on suburban rail networks not under TfL control, the Freedom Pass is only valid after 9.30am, to the chagrin of older and disabled people who travel before 9.30am. We have long called for the Freedom Pass to be valid 24hours across London; as at the moment, disabled people who commute to work by rail before 9.30am are hugely disadvantaged by the current arrangements.
Under the proposal, TfL will take over responsibility from the Department for Transport for inner suburban rail services within Greater London, including some services from Cannon Street, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Moorgate, Victoria and Waterloo. Transfers are expected to take place as current contracts with East Anglia, South Western, West Midlands, South Eastern, Great Western and Chiltern railways come to an end over the next five years. Promising “A world-class railway for the future”, the proposal sets out ambitious ideas for a joined up transport system, with more frequent trains, that will be more reliable, and more accessible.
We welcome these proposals and the potential benefits for our members. However, some lines may not be taken over until 2021. We will continue to campaign for rail companies to introduce Turn Up And Go assistance in advance of the takeover. It’s not right that disabled and older people should have to plan their journey 24hours in advance, when non-disabled people can just get on any train.
Transport for All participated in a London Assembly Investigation into rail devolution last June, where we supported proposals for rail devolution and highlighted the importance of “Turn Up and Go” assistance. We cited the success of London Overground’s takeover of the West Anglia line (Liverpool Street to Enfield / Cheshunt / Chingford); and the TfL rail takeover of the Greater Anglia line to Romford, which brought Turn-Up-And-Go assistance to these stations, giving disabled travellers for the first time the confidence to travel without booking ahead.
Enabling easier travel
Bringing more rail lines under the auspices of TfL and DfT would be fantastic step forward, enabling more people to more easily travel to work, social events and retail hotspots more easily. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as the reliability of “Turn Up and Go” assistance at current Transport for All controlled stations is not always as it should be.
There are other reasons we support TfL and DfT controlling these rail services, rather than rail companies. These include:
- Accessibility Mystery Shopping surveys are carried out on all TfL transport services
- Transparency: TfL services are more publically accountable than private rail operators are, e.g. through Freedom of Information requests; public meetings of the TfL board, and accountability to an elected Mayor and London Assembly
- Staffing first to last train is available on TfL services. Visible, trained staff can offer assistance, and staff presence can deter hate crime
You can read more about the plans at http://www.transportforall.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/dft-tfl-rail-prospectus.pdf . You can also email any feedback on the proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org