The Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram has signed a rail devolution deal that could lead to the city taking back control of its rail network.
During the official opening ceremony of Headbolt Lane, the new £80m, fully-accessible train station served by the first battery-powered passenger trains of their type in the country, mayor Rotheram pushed for greater powers to build a fully integrated, reliable and affordable service with transparent management.
Mayor Rotheram said: “This deal signifies not only a massive moment for our region – but the start of a new wave of devolution for the country. It puts us on track to open up the right conversations around how we can improve our rail network for the better and run it in the best interests of passengers.
“It’s the Liverpool City Region once again blazing a trail in the revolution of our railways – and I’ll be fighting our area’s corner every step of the way to make sure we capitalise on this opportunity.”
The Liverpool City Region Mayor has long been an advocate for further devolution of local rail services, with city residents recently voting in favour of franchising local bus services.
The region was the first area outside of London to take control of its local rail network with the Merseyrail concession in 2003, which is now one of the best performing networks in the country and, earlier this year, launched its £500m publicly-owned trains into passenger service.
The deal also represented a major boost to the government’s reinvestment into Northern transport through its Network North plan after the cancelled Northern leg of the HS2 project.
Mark Harper, transport secretary, said: “This agreement follows over a billion pounds of funding committed to the city through our Network North plans and will kickstart transport improvements for people across the city, making journeys affordable and accessible for all.”
Despite the new fleet being under public ownership, the current structure means that Network Rail is the incumbent owner and operator of the region’s railway infrastructure, including tracks, stations, signals and points.
The agreement does, however, enable discussions to take place concerning further infrastructure integration and regeneration opportunities between the rail industry and the combined authority, across the Merseyrail network and the region’s six local authorities, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and the Wirral.
What’s more, the move would give the combined authority greater control over investments to create better station facilities, improve network performance and timetable enhancements to expedite project delivery and improve services for local people.
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