Gale`s View – 24th June 2015
Transport for London would like to take control of at least part of the Overground trains currently serving Kent. This may be of small interest to many residents but to people who have to commute to London daily to work it may prove to be of considerable significance in the future.
Those of us who find it necessary to drive to and from London regularly are all too aware that TfL`s summer archaeological dig in the interests of making life still easier for the militant cyclists who now terrorise the streets of London has made the approach to Elephant and Castle and the Old Kent Road well-nigh impassable for much of the day. The byways of South London, through which I travel en route to the billet that I occupy in Tooting during the week are also reduced to snail`s pace as still more “improvements” designed to impede the motorist are introduced.
If I did not have to hump computers and briefcases and luggage with me I would dearly love to “let the train take the strain”. If the trains were reliable, which at present (due partly to major works at London Bridge and partly due to the conflicting interests of SouthEastern Trains and Network Rail ) they are not.
While TfL are arguably making a pig`s ear of London`s roads they do seem to be able to run trains. Notwithstanding the age of the infrastructure the London Underground is not too bad and the Docklands light Railway works, so those who use it tell me. Might it not, therefore, be better to let TfL take over the running of trains into London as well?
Superficially, the answer has to be “yes” if only on the basis that almost anything might be an improvement on what commuters are currently subjected to daily. The problem, of course, is that TfL does not want to take over the whole SouthEastern or Southern or Eastern franchises. It wants to cherry-pick the inner-London routes that dovetail neatly with the existing transport system while letting some other poor beggar try to sort out the difficult bit which is short-distance (Thanet, Brighton, East Anglia) commuter lines.
If Transport for London were able and willing to take on the whole of the SouthEastern franchise and make it work not just in the interests of rush-hours commuters but of all of the travelling public, and to run services efficiently and at a fair and affordable price, then they might just have something to offer East Kent. Unless and until TfL are prepared to make that very considerable commitment then I, and I believe most of my parliamentary colleagues representing Kent constituencies, are likely to oppose a take-over. The last thing that we need is “improvements” on inner-London services at the expense of those who are already paying far too much for far too little in the way of travelling speed and comfort.