This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 16/05/2017.
Mayor of London says campaign to cut cost of commuting in Croydon could still be successful
The Mayor of London has renewed his desire to takeover the running of Southern Rail services and has said that the prospect getting two of Croydon’s train stations rezoned to cut the cost of commuting “is not off the table”.
Campaigners for years have called for East and West Croydon stations switched from zone 5 to 4 on the Transport for London (TfL) map.
The Mayor Sadiq Khan visited Croydon to show his support for the Labour Party’s Croydon Central candidate Sarah Jones this morning (Tuesday, May 16) during which time he gave a rallying speech at Boxpark and spoke to students at Croydon College about the importance of voting ahead of the upcoming general election on June 8.
During his visit he also discussed the prospect of making train travel cheaper for people in Croydon.
Ms Jones, who narrowly lost out to Gavin Barwell at the last general election, previously ran the Zone4Croydon campaign which called for a boundary change to the TfL fare map and argued it could save commuters £336 on an annual travelcard.
The idea was discussed in Parliament in 2015, but the proposal was not backed by the Government as it was deemed to be an issue for TfL.
Croydon Labour say an annual Zones 1-5 Travelcard is up £112 since the previous 2015 figures and is now £2,248, having previously been £2,136, and an annual Zones 1-4 Travelcard is up £92 and is currently £1,892 – having previously £1,800.
Should the Croydon stations be re-zoned, commuters could save £356, according to Croydon Labour.
Ms Jones said that the fare zone campaign is once again part of her election pledges.
Mr Khan added that any change to the fare zones was still an option.
He said: “It is not off the table, we keep these things under review all of the time. For the next four years we are committed to a TfL fares freeze which is helping people in Croydon and all across London.
“We have seen the investments we have done with the council in relation to what happens around Fairfield Halls, the investment with trams and the roads – so that is conversations we are having all the time in what we can do to make transport more affordable.
“One of the reasons I chose to freeze TfL fares was to make it more affordable for commuters here in Croydon who have seen the benefit of pay-as-you-go on TfL’s fare freeze.
“We keep these things under review all the time, and obviously if you had a champion for Croydon Central lobbying for that [Zone 4] I would listen with open ears.”
Mr Khan also reinforced his desire to takeover the running of the Southern Rail franchise, a proposal he announced last July.
The mayor said he still wants TfL to run Southern services, and called on the Government to support his idea.
He added: “It beggars belief that commuters in Croydon have to put up with a service [by Southern] that is an embarrassment. Cancellations, delays, overcrowding and fares going up. Rather than the government standing up to this private company making huge profits, they cower to them.
“What we want is for TfL to take over the trains, we have shown what can be done with London Overground – one of the worst train lines in the country, we took it over now it is one of the best lines.
“We have shown with East Anglia from Liverpool Street – one of the worst lines in the country who are now one of the best. And so we are saying to the government, stop playing party politics with commuters.
“We have got a plan how we are going to have longer trains, improve the stations, more frequency of trains at no cost to the taxpayer or the fare payer because what we are going to do is make more money from the concession fare model in relation to the deal we have with them.
“We have shown with London Overground how to do it and my fares freeze would extend to these [Southern Rail] trains if we took them over. But for ideological reasons the Conservative government is saying no.”
In response to Mr Khan’s comments, a spokesman for Southern Rail said: “Our focus is on improving the service to passengers, not arguments about political control.
“The latest performance figures show that every month since December our service delivery levels have improved and so far this month, 87 per cent of our trains are on time.
“We’re determined to continue this by upgrading and modernising our systems and service to address capacity, congestion and punctuality on a network where passenger numbers have doubled in the past two decades.
“To help achieve this, we are working closely with Network Rail on their £300m package to improve reliability across our network.
“Southern made no profit last year as all our income went into delivering the service. Southern is not expected to make a profit in the coming year either.”