Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram has signed a trailblazer rail devolution deal that could see the city region take full control of the local rail network.
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said Mr Rotheram is pushing for greater powers to build ‘a fully integrated, reliable and affordable service with transparent management’ after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with transport secretary Mark Harper.
It said Mr Rotheram has been vocal about exploring the potential to better link the region’s existing network infrastructure with the combined authority’s transport network and that the agreement has taken this a step further by beginning an assessment of the local network’s future with Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team.
Although the city region was the first area outside of London to take control of its local rail network with the Merseyrail concession in 2003 and has a new £500m fleet under public ownership, Network Rail is remains the owner and operator of rail infrastructure, including tracks, stations, signals and points.
The combined authority said acquiring responsibility for infrastructure would give it greater control over investments to create better station facilities, improve network performance and capacity and timetable enhancements, as well as 'expediating the delivery of projects'.
The agreement was signed during the opening of the country’s newest train station at Headbolt Lane in Kirkby (pictured) – an £80m, fully accessible station served by the first battery powered passenger trains of their type in the country.
Mr Rotheram said: ‘This deal signifies not only a massive moment for our region – but the start of a new wave of devolution for the country. 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.’
The Department for Transport said the MOU commits to the Government working in closer collaboration with the city to deliver plans for a fully integrated public transport system in Merseyside.
Mr 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.’