Regions to take wheel in transport shake-up says Labour

Labour has pledged it will hand key powers over rail and bus services to the regions if it wins power at the next General Election.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said devolution will form a key part of Labour’s new transport policy being drawn up for 2015.

She promised “London-style powers” for the regions over transport and said controls will be taken away from both Whitehall and the “vested interests” of rail and bus companies.

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The Government is consulting on its own plans for devolving some transport controls to the regions, with Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester councils currently working together on a joint bid to take control of the Northern and TransPennine rail networks.

But Ms Eagle insisted Labour will go further, accusing the Government of using devolution as an excuse to cut funding for the North.

“Many communities feel that they have little influence over the local transport on which many depend,” she said. “It can prove impossible to prevent the loss of a much-valued bus service or improve the condition of a local train station.

“The nature of the privatised train industry and deregulated bus market outside London make it difficult to influence decision-making, not least over the loss of services and increases in fares.

“I am clear that we need a new approach that enables people to have a real influence over the local transport services on which they depend.

“I want to see the rest of England benefit from London-style powers to manage bus and train services in the way that can make integrated transport a reality.”

She added: “It’s time that fares and services were agreed not with profits but with passengers in mind.

“A real commitment to devolving powers and funding over transport will require a cultural change away from the ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach.

“It will mean being willing to take on the vested interests in the private train and bus companies that benefit from the current system.”