TfL submit proposal for Southeastern rail takeover – will the Government agree?


TfL have submitted their case for taking over Southeastern rail services. They are Metro services to Dartford, Hayes, and Orpington but also Gravesend and Sevenoaks. They’d take over specifying rolling stock, fares, staffing, and certain service levels from the Department for Transport.

Since taking over West Anglia lines in 2015 they have seen a 27% increase in passengers. Fare evasion has reduced from 15% to 2%. They predict a 14% increase with Southeastern.

Recently it has appeared as though the Government and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been luke-warm at best. I covered this and how damaging it could be to the whole area here.

TfL are looking to takeover on 10th November 2018. The delay in approving the changeover means six months longer with SE which will please many I’m sure. The danger there, aside from their usual weak service provision, is that extra time could see a winding down on maintenance and staff hiring and retention as seen elsewhere. Southeastern’s parent company is GoVia, who complained recently when taking over Thameslink that the previous incumbent (First Group) had let driver numbers decline.

Here’s a list of possible improvements that TfL could provide:


It also mentions an interchange at Brockley between London Overground and routes such as Dartford to Victoria.

Lewisham could do with an upgrade and general clean up:


Sadly there’s no mention of upgrading Woolwich Dockyard station to take 12-carriage trains or relocating the station closer to the thousands of new homes coming as Morris Walk estate is redeveloped, and Charlton Riverside plans which bring 5,000 more homes. Other towers are also proposed in the area.

The plans would not cost the Department for Transport a penny. Any additional costs would be borne by TfL:


Some previous sticking points such as objections from Kent have been overcome.

The report mentions Erith and Belvedere homes. 2000 being built now is just the start. I covered new housing in the area here.


There seems some confusion as to whether Thameslink plans would see cuts at those stations from six to four trains an hour. I’d expect that TfL in charge would do a lot more to prevent that.

Housing boost

The report mentions a lack of joined-up thinking at the moment with the DfT specifying rail services with minimal knowledge of house building plans. Bringing transport and housing plans under one organisation would do much to speed up delivery.

They mention the number of homes built around the DLR and underground. However they claim 15,000 are being built on the Peninsula. It’s actually 21,000. Let’s hope they aren’t basing Jubilee Line future demand on that 15,000 number. It’s this very high number that means a ferry to Canary Wharf, as proposed last week, is not enough to supplement the Jubilee Line. A bridge is needed.

Greenwich Millenium Village

However, if walking and cycling links between the southern end of the Peninsula and Southeastern (or TfL) stations at Westcombe Park and Maze Hill were to be improved, more people at the Greenwich Millenium Village, Morden Wharf, Enderby Wharf etc. developments would use trains. Many are around 10 minutes walk away.

Kidbrooke tower

There’s much scope to build high density housing beside lines and around stations. Plans at Kidbrooke are one such scheme. This land is split between Network Rail and TfL. I covered this proposal here.

Prime spots such as Greenwich also have underused Network Rail land directly beside the station:


Development could fund the installation of barriers at this station and others, which would reduce fare evasion as levels are very high on Southeastern London routes. Over the river it reduced from 15% to 2-3% in a year with lines out of Liverpool Street as TfL staff stations from first to last train.


With capacity at London terminals already at capacity additional peak time services would be a long way off. However off-peak can be worked on. TfL mention how things like extra staffing can help dispatch quicker. Other things to increase capacity include additional trains to utilise infrastructure such as 12-carriage platforms and refurbishing trains.

One odd thing is their map of current SE London services is flat out wrong:


It suggests three trains an hour go via Lewisham on the Woolwich line with three going to Cannon Street. It’s six an hour to Cannon Street and two via Lewisham to Charing Cross.

A big boost is suggested for services to Victoria. The current two an hour via Bexleyheath would rise to six – three via Bexleyheath and three via Sidcup.



All day staffing also means disabled people can be assisted on to trains as and when they arrive rather than needing to book 24 hours in advance.

Older people get free travel for longer, though I will annoy some here and say I’m really not sure about that. Should, say, a wealthy 61 year old on 50k a year, plus a home rising by 10% a year for a decade or two, get free travel whilst a 25 year old on 25k, where pay rises look like a distant dream, pay over a grand a year in transport?

They’ll likely have a £20k student loan repayment taking 9% more out of their wages each month and for whom owning their own home is an impossibility. Where even renting anything but a tiny room in a flat share way out past zone 5 takes up a large bulk of their wages. I’m not sure it’s fair to deprive them of the chance of seat for people who are far wealthier to then get free transport.

Cheaper fares

Another benefit TfL claime is integrating into TfL’s fares structure which would save people a fair amount. Some non-TfL franchises serving London do already do this (such as First Great Western and c2c) meaning passengers do not pay more when they switch from train to tube, for example. SE passengers pay £1.50 extra each time they do in central London. However, I very much doubt the DfT would push this on any franchise so a TfL takeover would be beneficial.

The report comprehensively sets out the benefits that can be brought to South East London and the positive record of TfL elsewhere. The only reason this wont happen is if ideological stupidity or petty games block it. And if that happens you’ll have Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to blame. The ball is now in the Department for Transport’s court.

EDIT: Another snippet of info I didn’t mention is an extension of Oyster to  Stone Crossing, Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

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