Lower fares and faster trains - passengers promised dramatic improvements under plans to hand control of fares, timetables, trains and stations to North East leaders
Train passengers have been promised dramatic improvements if North East politicians are given control of rail services.
The region’s leaders welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement last week that he wanted to hand over control of fares, timetables, trains and stations to local authorities across the North.
Members of the North East Joint Transport Committee were told on September 17 that the move could spark a huge improvement for commuters.
Philip Meikle, transport strategy director for Nexus, said that passengers would enjoy a “much better experience” if local authorities were given new powers – promising lower fares, faster and more frequent trains, more comfortable and greener carriages, improved stations, enhanced park and ride services, and better integration with other public transport.
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said it was “self-evident” that poor transport links are the key problem holding back the North East’s economic development.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon added that the region needed specific control over routes from the Tees Valley all the way to Cumbria, rather than being part of a wider Northern devolution package.
He said: “I think that the North East of England has a very particular and unique agenda around our own rail network. I am very supportive of Northern Powerhouse Rail, but I think that we are a relatively small part of that. We should be making direct representations to have control over our own network.”
Speaking at the Convention of the North in Rotherham last Friday, Mr Johnson pledged: “On your local lines in metropolitan areas, we will give greater control over fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations.
“And 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.
“But as well as taking power, this is the kicker, you will have to take responsibility. That means alongside taking the credit, you will be taking the heat.”