Transport for London is ready to take on the local rail services run by the “frankly crap” Southeastern, Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has said.
The train company had its franchise withdrawn by transport secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday after it emerged that it had held back £25 million of payments due to the Treasury. A state-run company, SE Trains, will take charge in two weeks’ time.
Local MPs and Conservative councillors have already called for TfL to take over Southeastern’s London metro services in the wake of its sacking; Thorpe added his backing last night.
Thorpe told a full meeting of Greenwich Council: “Obviously, this has been a source of constant frustration with Southeastern trains over many years for the frankly crap service that they have provided.
“I know I speak for not just for the mayor, but all of us when I say that Transport for London are entirely ready to take control with the metroisation of rail services in London – we’ve done that successfully with the London Overground.
“I do believe that the secretary of state is on board with the idea – we do something that will be of benefit to all of London and bring it under the control of City Hall, because it will be a better service regardless of which colour party is running City Hall.
Conservative councillor Matt Clare, who raised the issue, won a round of applause from his Labour opponents after saying the company had “taken the taxpayer for a ride when they should have been taking residents for a ride, and often failed to”.
While the news was greeted with shock this week, industry insiders pointed out that signs of Southeastern’s financial issues had been made public some time ago, with its parent company Go-Ahead referring to financial issues with the franchise in past financial reports.
The announcement this week that Southeastern have been stripped of their franchise is welcome. The government must now allow TfL to take over the service. I’ve sent a joint letter with @CliveEfford to the Secretary of State to ask for an urgent meeting. pic.twitter.com/xBUeydo800
— Abena Oppong-Asare MP (@abenaopp) September 30, 2021
Erith & Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare and Eltham MP Clive Efford sent a joint letter to Shapps last night asking Shapps how long the government had been aware of the problems, and calling for TfL to be put in charge of the metro services.
“Our part of the capital does not enjoy the Underground connections that exist elsewhere and this franchise is of fundamental importance to its residents,” they wrote.
“Transferring the franchise to TfL is long overdue and should happen at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Boris Johnson backed a possible transfer when he was mayor, and yesterday The Times quoted his successor Sadiq Khan as saying TfL would improve services.
“We’ve been trying to persuade the government to [let us] take over commuter trains and we’d be really keen to on the right terms,” he said.
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