Transport secretary Chris Grayling has blocked the Mayor of London’s plans to secure greater power and control over suburban rail services.
Mr Grayling said in an interview with the Evening Standard yesterday he did not want any “deckchair shifting” of powers as there was “no clear sign” services for passengers would improve. The words echo what Mr Grayling told councillors at the County Councils Network conference last month. However, this morning it emerged Mr Grayling had previously opposed the move on political grounds.
Responding to the decision, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan (Lab) said “the only proven way” to improve suburban rail services was to hand control to Transport for London and added: “Anything short of this simply won’t make the improvements desperately needed.”
Mr Khan pointed to a joint prospectus, issued by the Department for Transport and the previous mayor Boris Johnson (Con) in January, which outlined plans to hand TfL responsibility for suburban rail services which operate “mostly or wholly within Greater London” as and when franchise deals come up for renewal.
This morning it emerged that Mr Grayling, who is MP for Epsom & Ewell in Surrey, was previously supportive of London gaining greater responsibility for rail services - as long as it was under Conservative control.
The Evening Standard reported a note Mr Grayling, when justice secretary, sent to former mayor Mr Johnson in April 2013 which said: “While I am generally a great supporter of what you are doing in London, I would not be in favour of changing the current arrangements.
“Not because I have any fears over the immediate future, but because I would like to keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour mayor”.
Yesterday Mr Grayling said he would invite TfL “to be more closely involved in developing the next South Eastern franchise” by seconding a representative from TfL on to the team which negotiates the next contract.
Mr Khan, who outlined his case for further rail devolution in October, said he would “keep pushing the government to deliver the rail devolution they have promised”.