Devolution bid for railway management

Consultation on rail devolution is getting under way.

Consultation on rail devolution is getting under way.

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The government is being urged to press ahead with plans to hand powers to manage rail franchises to local councils in north England.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport supporting the proposals, Lancashire County Council bosses said locally managed rail could boost the economy, and highlighted how the area’s authorities are already working well with the industry.

County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “One of the many opportunities presented by local management of rail would be to ensure future rail development ties in with councils’ wider objectives to develop a fully integrated transport system. There is potential for rail to more closely support economic development and transport plans, which could for example mean timetables being better integrated across rail and buses, improving connectivity, and extending opportunities for people to 
access work or training.

“Councils in Lancashire are already working with the rail industry to deliver this kind of improvement, such as with the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve to improve links between Manchester and Burnley, and we’re well placed to take on greater powers.”

Other Lancashire successes highlighted in the letter include work to increase passenger numbers on community rail lines.

But the council also wants further clarification on how devolution to an organisation provisionally termed “Rail North” would work.

County Coun Fillis added: “In some areas, such as Merseyside, management of transport is already fully integrated and it is natural they would have a leading role in any devolution arrangements.

“But we need to ensure that all partners have a level of influence which enables them to represent their residents.”

The devolution process began with a Government consultation in November 2012.

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