Khan ‘sorry’ for Elizabeth Line reliability issues and vows to improve service

The mayor said it was “not good enough” that commuters were not receiving “a first class service”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Service

An Elizabeth Line train and (inset) Sadiq Khan
An Elizabeth Line train and (inset) Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan has apologised for high levels of disruption on the Elizabeth Line, as he pledged to work with Transport for London (TfL) to improve the service.

The mayor said it was “not good enough” that commuters were not receiving “a first class service”, following reports that the east-west train was affected by disruption every weekday last week.

Liberal Democrat, Green and Tory politicians on the London Assembly were united in calling for Khan to take tougher action to resolve the line’s issues, which include signalling and power supply problems.

The Elizabeth Line struggled with historically low punctuality over the summer, when one-in-six of its services was delayed or cancelled. More recently, services suffered six separate issues in just over 24 hours between Thursday and Friday morning last week.

Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall said “constant disruptions” on the line showed that Khan is “failing to keep London moving”.

Responding to criticism about the line’s reliability, the Labour mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It was raised at the last TfL board meeting, because the commissioner [Andy Lord] himself understands that the level of service on the Elizabeth Line hasn’t been as good as we hoped.

“Of course it’s been a source of pride to us, how popular the line is. But it’s not good enough, the concerns that have been raised.

“We are speaking to Network Rail – a lot of these issues are to do with [the part of the line] west as you go past Paddington, and east as you go past Liverpool Street, which aren’t TfL lines. We are working more closely with Network Rail.

“I fully understand the concerns commuters have. The commissioner has apologised for the service received by commuters – I echo that apology.”

He added: “It’s really important [that] people receive a first-class service from a first-class line. It’s not been first class on some occasions and I apologise for that.”

Network Rail said earlier this month it has “brought in industry experts from the UK and the continent, as well as the manufacturers of some of our components, to understand precisely why some of our infrastructure isn’t performing how it should, and this forms the basis of our improvement plans”.

London TravelWatch, the capital’s transport watchdog, has said it wants to meet senior TfL operations staff to discuss what can be done to improve services.

Howard Smith, Elizabeth Line director, said: “We sincerely apologise for the disruption that has affected some Elizabeth Line services recently and we recognise that recent delays and cancellations have been frustrating for our customers.

“The causes have included problems with the signalling and power supply on Network Rail tracks in the west; trespassers on the line, where we have to stop services for safety reasons, and some track and train faults.

“As well as urgently reviewing recent incidents, we are working hard with Network Rail and Alstom, who maintain the trains, to minimise the impact on our customers and provide a safe and reliable railway.”

Data from the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) last month showed that only 82.5% of Elizabeth Line trains arrived on time between April and June – down 5.6 points on the first three months of the year.

Separate ORR figures also revealed that in the four weeks to 19th August, the Elizabeth Line had the most cancellations in the country – 9.1% of services.

This cancellation rate has dropped to 4.3% in the four weeks to 16th September, but that is still the joint second highest figure since Khan opened the line in May 2022.

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