North poised to win partial control of railways

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YORKSHIRE transport chiefs are poised to take partial control of the region’s commuter rail networks after reaching an agreement in principle with Whitehall over rail devolution.

Longer trains, revamped stations, new carriages and more frequent services are among the benefits transport bosses say will follow more local input into how Yorkshire’s rail networks are run.

Council leaders from across the North met with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin last night to discuss a new partnership approach between Whitehall and Northern councils to the management of the Northern and Trans-Pennine franchises, which are both up for renewal in 2016.

Although a final announcement is not expected until early next year, sources at the Department for Transport (DfT) said it has accepted the principle of more local control over rail services. However, the DfT is refusing to relinquish total control to Northern councils, insisting its own officials work alongside to manage the process.

James Lewis, chair of local transport body Metro, said: “We’re looking at a joint body to award the franchise and manage the contract.

“The key thing is we’re looking at sharing the proceeds of growth.

“People in Yorkshire pay a national ticket rise each year, but don’t feel any benefit. We want a direct relationship – so when you see passenger growth on the local railways, instead of that disappearing into the national rail structure, we can invest it locally.”