Is it finally goodbye to Grayling – and what impact on Southeastern rail?

With Teresa May finally forced from office after numerous aborted coups it now looks like the end of Chris Grayling and very possibly Chancellor Philip Hammond.

What impact will it have on transport in London? One of Grayling’s first tasks in his current role was to cancel previously agreed plans to devolve operation of Southeastern Metro services to Transport for London. Since then the DfT’s management of franchises has continued to, and let’s put this politely, seen some hiccups.

Mainstay of the Southeastern fleet. 27 years old and no substantial refurb

They are currently being taken to court by Stagecoach and Arriva.

The current Southeastern franchise continues to see short-term extensions (a continual theme now for five years) preventing any sort of investment and long-term planning as borough’s like Greenwich are in the top 10 authorities for new homes out of over 350 across the UK.

TfL funding

Devolution would not come cheap and TfL are, to put it politely, skint.

If a new Transport Secretary is appointed the Department for Transport would still have to battle with funding cuts. George Osborne (now editing the Evening Standard which regularly complains about transport issues) cut the transport budget by 37% in 2015 (more than any other department) alongside stripping out £700 million annually from TfL’s budget under an agreement with then-Mayor Boris Johnson.

Short term patches increasingly seen on SE trains.

Since taking office Chancellor Philip Hammond did nothing to reverse cuts. Will a new chancellor increase funding for transport? Improved deficit numbers would seemingly allow scope for that. Targets made in 2010 have finally been made four years after George Osborne’s original 2015 target made nine years ago.

Yet increasing funds for London would no doubt see the rest of the country kick off given the paucity of funds spent in many areas. This north-south divide (well, not really given much of the south also has little investment) is a politician’s gift. Let regions squabble and divert from the overall transport budget being far too small. The Guardian seemed to indulge this shallow analysis recently.

New station but no frequency increases for SE Metro from pre-rebuild levels

Even with Brexit the latest migration figures show an increase of 258,000.

In an ideal world (hah!) the transport budget nationwide would expand. If we jump over the channel Paris has major transport improvements on the cards yet other cities have also seen numerous improvements and tram networks built or in planning. It’s not either/or for the capital and regions in France or in many European nations. Will that happen in England? Very unlikely.

And without new funds any TfL devolution will be tricky, yet any new franchise looks like offering little in the way of improvement as bidders pull out and launch legal action and the DfT seek high returns.

Years of stagnation ahead then with or without Brexit? It’s very possible, and it may offer one reason why the Tories struggle so badly in urban areas where many are reliant on public transport.




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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.

4 thoughts on “Is it finally goodbye to Grayling – and what impact on Southeastern rail?

  • We can only hope someone with common sense will takeover failing Grayling’s post, and see the the value of allowing TfL to takeover the Southeastern Line! Increased revenue and better services, along with a possible moving of Woolwich to Zone 3? WOOHOO! Let it happen!

    • Dont be fooled into think that TFL will be the be all and end all of the woes. The southeast metro area is such a densely populated area that there is now no room for expansion. Also given the complexities of the metro/mainline inter-operations that cant simply be divided down some imaginary line and you’re talking about an increase of around 50 trains and 100 drivers on both metro and mainline if they were to split. TFL may offer a clock face timetable, but it really wont work without yet more trains in addition to those above. Then of course you cant have more trains as there’s no room in any of the sidings in the SE area, and it’s too populated to build 600 carriages worth of sidings! We need more integration, not less across the industry…

  • Grayling may yet survive under the new regime, so don’t hold out any hope that the suffering travellers on the south eastern lines will be relieved.

    As for the case being mounted by Stagecoach and Arriva, they sought to unilaterally vary the terms of the tender in respect of the Railways Pensions Scheme. I hope the court finds in favour of the government.

  • Oh, we won’t be so lucky. As the country took its frustrations out on the Tories, the Government will take their frustration out on that Remainer hotbed London. Grayling may well be left in place: the key players will be jostling for Home Secretary, Health and Defence once the inevitable Cabinet reshuffle takes place. These are the priorities for tabloid-reading voters, not the woes of ‘elitest’ London or its incumbent Mayor.

    At best there will be a local push by councillors push towards more cycle lanes and ‘Mini-Holland’ style areas such as Walthamstow. I don’t forsee anything other than gridlock over the next half decade


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