Railways power could be devolved to North

A NEW major transport group covering the whole of the North could wield Westminster powers over funding to increase rail services in the region.

Proposals submitted to the Government by authorities in South and West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester say decisions about rail services should be devolved.

Under the plan a combined franchise to succeed the current Northern and TransPennine franchises would be created and managed from the North, rather than London.

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It would focus on economic growth through more capacity for people to get to work, more frequent and faster services between the main northern centres, and improvements at stations and in rolling stock.

Councillor James Lewis, chairman of Metro, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “In West Yorkshire, Metro already spends over £70m annually supporting 25m journeys on local train services and we are certain that we can use our local knowledge and industry experience to introduce measures that would improve passenger services.”

With more than 80 per cent of local and regional train services running through their areas, West Yorkshire and York, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester would make up the core members of the new body, and work with authorities across the North to develop strategies and manage future franchises.

Coun Lewis said that there were already strong working relationships between the transport groups, citing the Northern Hub as an example of what could be achieved.

Northern Hub, a catch-all name for a £580m upgrade of the railways across the North of England, drawn up by Network Rail, is a package of 14 measures centred mainly around Manchester, but which would have major knock-on effects by delivering more than 700 extra services a day between Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield. Northern transport groups and politicians are lobbying for the Government to fund the project entirely.