Cities to take control of transport

29 Nov 01
Regional rail services look set to move back into public sector control with ministers preparing to give major cities a key role in managing local train networks.

30 November 2001

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is preparing to hand over the management of local train franchises to the six English and one Scottish Passenger Transport Authorities.

This would allow regional centres and cities to negotiate contracts and make decisions about service levels, quality and public subsidies. It is hoped that devolution would help prioritise local transport needs.

Similar moves could also follow in the capital. Mayor Ken Livingstone was on November 29 expected to call for London to be given public sector control over the service delivered by all forms of transport.

This would mean not only the Tube but also overland railways transferring to the control of Transport for London, the body responsible for implementing the mayor's transport strategy.

Leading the way is Merseyside. Ministers are expected to give the go-ahead to management control by Liverpool in the next few weeks.

The franchise will be managed by Merseytravel, a company which already operates the region's buses, ferries and tunnels and is made up of five councils – Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, Wirral and St Helens.

'We are looking forward to more meetings in Whitehall and a satisfactory outcome to our proposals,' said Mark Dowd, chair of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority.

This is expected to be a prelude to similar deals being struck in the other PTAs – Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Strathclyde.

These cover the public service transport needs of approximately 14 million people.

A spokeswoman for the SRA said it planned to make an announcement on the future of the other PTAs in the 'next couple of months'. This is expected to give powers to the cities to run local rail franchises. Currently, the Strategic Rail Authority operates franchises for local train services.

The move comes amid mounting doubt about the shape and composition of the new Railtrack. Transport Secretary Stephen Byers admitted this week that it may take a year before the new company is launched.


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