Oyster cards at the ready

Number 41On 30 November last year, Oliver Dowden, our MP, announced on his web site that he’d secured a promise from the Department of Transport that the Oyster scheme would be extended to Radlett and Potters Bar (both in his constituency, of course – but the extension will also take in St Albans and go out all the way to Luton Airport). This is, of course, unreservedly good news. It’ll make it easier and cheaper to get into town and it’ll give commuters an alternative to costly season tickets.

But – forgive us – we’re sceptical. We’ve heard this before (in 2016, for instance). In fact we’ve heard it several times before. And on each occasion, of course, it’s not actually happened. Our MP is presenting this as a ‘victory’ and the Minister has apparently promised that it will happen this year (2019) but, having followed this story for years, now, we’re going to believe it when we see it. And, in the meantime, we’re going to run a countdown on our Twitter account. Or rather a count-up. It’s been 41 days since we heard that Oyster is coming to Radlett. We’ll keep counting until it actually arrives. Let’s see how long it takes.

Transport for London and Thameslink – oh dear

A couple of weeks ago we learnt, from an Evening Standard article, of Department for Transport plans to hand control of London’s suburban railways to Transport for London. According to the report, this would include Thameslink and all the other London commuter lines. We all got a bit excited about this.

Whatever you think of Transport for London, handing responsibility for the commuter lines to London’s strategic transport authority makes perfect sense. An integrated urban transport network for Europe’s biggest city – underground, buses, overground, river boats, bikes and roads – ought to include the suburban railways. Even if we did have to wait for the current Thameslink contract to expire in 2021, it looked like a change to be welcomed.

Sadly, the Evening Standard got it wrong.

Thameslink’s press office weren’t able to confirm the story but Transport for London gave me the bad news:

Rail services that are already contracted by TfL include a number of destinations outside the London boundary, such as Watford, Cheshunt and Shenfield. The Thameslink line to Bedford is not part of the scope for the inner suburban routes.

(my highlight)

So the plans don’t cover any of the outer suburban lines. It seems implausible, but the haphazard patchwork of franchises that serves London’s suburbs is somehow still thought to be viable for a 21st Century city and will persist. Sorry.

There may be some hope, though. This press release, from the Mayor, says:

The proposals ā€“ on which views are being sought ā€“ would see the transfer of rail services that operate mostly or wholly within the Greater London boundary to TfL when the current franchises are due for renewal.

(my highlight)

If ‘on which views are being sought’ means there’s a consultation planned, then I’d anticipate a torrent of contributions from suburban rail users asking for their lines to be included. The consultation hasn’t begun. Watch this space.