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20 July 2016

Why Sadiq Khan’s bid for Southern Rail is a smart move

By transforming the failing line, Khan could wield new influence. 

By Julia Rampen

They’ve held protest rallies. They’ve threatened to go on strike. They’ve demanded nationalisation.

No, it’s not the Corbynites, but the well-heeled, briefcase rattling commuters of Southern Rail. After a series of rail disasters, including a sinkhole and 350 trains cancelled in one day, they’ve had enough. 

Now, London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has demanded that the beleagured franchise should be delivered over to Transport for London.

He has written to the new Transport secretary, Chris Grayling, with his request. 

Southern has been plagued by strike action and staff shortages as well as the appearance of a 50 foot sinkhole under a South London rail track. 

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Khan has been scathing about Southern Rail, calling its services “an insult to Londoners”.

The Government may be willing to listen. It has been close to despair over the failing franchise. Before she stepped down as Rail minister, Claire Perry said she was “often ashamed” by the services

Despite the Tories’ traditional anathema to government-run train services, Grayling has also indicated he could show some flexibility on Southern.

He told the BBC fixing the Southern crisis was “top of his priority list”. 

Khan’s demand has precedence. Transport for London was widely credited with reinvigorating the Silverlink network now known as the London Overground, and it is due to take over the capital’s remaining suburban rail networks

In a city where mayoral power is limited mainly to transport, every time TfL expands it reach, so does Khan. A crisis in Southern Rail is also an opportunity. 

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