The Great Northern line out of Moorgate to Stevenage could be handed to TfL as plans to devolve them took a step forward.
Although a lot of work is still needed to be done, and the benefits and risks were said to be “finely balanced”, there could be devolution of the line to TfL no later than September 2022.
In a letter to Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, the Department for Transport confirmed that TfL had submitted an outline business case to take over the line and that TfL and the DfT have been working on fleshing out the plans.
Heidi Alexander first outlined TfL’s desire to take over the Great Northern Inner lines from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) back in July 2018.
More recently, TfL’s Commissioner, Mike Brown, said that TfL is working towards delivering a bid for Great Northern rail services when the Govia Thameslink franchise is due to expire in 2021.
They’re now at the stage where they can work on further details for devolving the line. As it stands, this would be the Great Northern Inner suburban services, which is the lines between Moorgate and Stevenage.
That is slightly more than had been suggested could be devolved in the Gibb report which also looked at the issue of devolving services to TfL. That report had proposed devolving the line from Moorgate to Hertford and Welwyn Garden City, although the current works to add an extra platform at Stevenage should make the extra extension possible, and it offers passengers a more convenient transfer between services.
As some of the stations along the line fall outside of the Greater London Authority boundaries, any TfL plans are required to include details of how passengers using the new stations would have some level of representation in how the services are managed.
TfL also needs to ensure that the transfer is cost-neutral to the DfT.
The change, as described in the letter seems like it may exclude the occasional services into Kings Cross, which in turn could release more platform capacity at that station for other suburban lines.
Geoff Hobbs, TfL’s Director of Public Transport Service Planning, said: “The response from the Department for Transport following the submission of the Strategic Outline Business Case is another positive step towards devolving some Great Northern commuter routes to TfL. We continue to work constructively with the DfT on the proposed transfer that would support the Mayor’s commitment to improve integrated transport services.”
If the transfer does take place, then the part of the line from Finsbury Park to Moorgate will be returning to the London Transport. Although it opened in 1904 as part of the (now) mainline railway network, it was taken over by the Metropolitan line in 1913 with a plan to extend it from Moorgate down to Bank.
It was operated as part of the Northern line from 1939 to 1975, when it was handed over to British Rail and has been a mainline service ever since. It could be part of London Transport once more.