MERSEYSIDE is poised to become the first part of Britain to run its own rail network, under a radical government shake-up to be unveiled today. Rob Merrick reported
A groundbreaking report will propose “vertical integration” to drive down costs, allowing some areas to take control of both track and trains – ending the divide imposed by privatisation 15 years ago.
Merseytravel, the passenger authority, has pressed to be given the new powers for many years, but was thwarted by the last Labour government.
Now the Daily Post has learned that ministers believe Merseyside is the “obvious candidate” to carry out a trial of the new approach, because – unlike inter-city trains – it covers a small area.
Local transport bosses believe the benefits will include the ability to:
Carry out track maintenance at more convenient times – preventing complete shutdowns of vital lines;
Improve existing lines – perhaps completing the electrification of the Bidston-to-Wrexham line, which will only be electrified on the Welsh side of the border, under current plans;
Assume responsibility for track failures – which passengers wrongly blame on Merseytravel, rather than on Network Rail, which is responsible for infrastructure.
Carry out improvements at stations – again, currently the responsibility of Network Rail.
Today, transport secretary Philip Hammond will announce the setting- up of a rail delivery group of industry leaders, to prepare a White Paper to be published in the autumn.
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