Prime minister Boris Johnson announced his intention “to give the railways of the north back to the people of the north” at this month’s NP11 Convention in Rotherham.
“In the combined authority or joint transport committee areas in the North East, West Yorkshire, Sheffield City Region, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, it is time for the north to run its own trains,” said Johnson. “Keith Williams, who is leading a review of the railways for us, has I think been in touch with most of the people concerned.
“On your local lines in metropolitan areas, we will give greater control over fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations.”
He continued: “Outside the combined authority areas, I want communities to take control too. That might be through county councils taking on similar roles, in their areas, for stations or branch lines. Or it might be by transferring local branch line and rural services to community rail partnerships, owned by local people.
“And as you have asked, we will give you far greater control over your budgets.”
LGA calls for further bus powers devolution
The Local Government Association has called on the government to give all councils oversight of local bus services after polling it commissioned found the majority of people want their local authority to have the power to decide how local bus services are provided.
The LGA says investing in bus services can provide a lifeline for older and vulnerable people. It also says it is concerned about the decline in bus passenger journeys – the most recent government statistics show there were 4.31 billion bus passenger journeys made in England in 2018/19 – a drop of 317 million – compared to 4.627 billion in 2014/15.
Ambitious £3.5bn plan for Midlands rail network
Midlands Connect has set out an ambitious £3.5bn plan that aims to revolutionise the rail network in the Midlands. Made up of seven projects spanning the region, the sub-national transport body says the programme is strategically important in boosting the region’s economy. It also includes, and builds upon, the flagship Midlands Rail Hub scheme, aimed at boosting east-west connectivity, which was submitted to the government in June 2019.
Set to be delivered in stages from 2022 to the completion of HS2 Phase Two in the following decade, Midlands Engine Rail aims to provide a capacity boost for national, local and regional rail services, creating network space for 736 additional trains on the network each day. Up to 60 locations could benefit from improved services, including Birmingham, Leicester, Coventry, Nottingham, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Worcester and Wolverhampton.
Translink networks record patronage boost
Belfast’s Metro bus services recorded a 7.1% increase in passenger journeys last year, Translink has revealed in its annual report. Ulsterbus services, comparable with shire counties in Great Britain, saw a 1.6% increase in passenger journeys. At the same time there was a 5.3% increase on Northern Ireland Railways.
Translink chairman Frank Hewitt said the group recorded more than 84.5 million passenger journeys during the year, the highest number in 20 years. “With the successful introduction of the iconic Glider services connecting East Belfast to West Belfast and to Titanic Quarter, Metro passenger journeys grew to over 30 million. Ulsterbus and Foyle Metro services have also registered growth in passenger numbers and the new Ulsterbus Urby services have been well received.
“The recent increases in rail passenger numbers have continued, with passenger journeys during the year reaching 15.8 million, the highest in NI Railways’ 50-year history.”
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.