The Mayor of Liverpool in the UK has signed a rail devolution deal with the UK Government that could see the region take more control of its local rail services.
Mayor Steve Rotheram signed the agreement with Transport Secretary Mark Harper as part of a push towards better integration of the region’s train services with its wider public transport network.
Mayor Rotheram described the deal as both a massive moment for the region and the start of a “new wave of devolution” in the UK, saying: “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.”
Though the region’s combined authority has had some control of its Merseyrail network since 2003, the new memorandum of understanding could see the authority taking greater control of the network’s infrastructure, which is currently owned by Network Rail, as is most of the railway network in Great Britain.
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Announced at the official opening of the region’s new £80m Headbolt Lane station, which will be served by Liverpool’s new battery-powered trains, the deal will see Mayor Rotheram and the authority work closely with Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team to create a new structure.
Harper said: “Today’s agreement demonstrates this government’s commitment to transforming public transport across the country and empowering elected leaders to make decisions based on the priorities of local people.”
The deal will be seen as a significant achievement by Rotheram, who has recently joined other mayors in the north of England in criticising some of the existing structures and decisions on the country’s current rail network and has also been working on taking public control of the city’s buses.
In September, Rotheram joined others, including Andy Burnham, the mayor of the nearby Greater Manchester, in questioning decisions by the now state-owned Transpennine Express to reduce timetables and abandon the use of its Nova 3 trains.
Additionally, the Liverpool mayor was one of many to heavily criticise the government’s decision to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2, describing the move as a broken promise that condemned the North to deal with “creaking infrastructure for generations.”