LCR mayor signs deal for rail devolution

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has signed a trailblazer rail devolution deal that could be transformational for rail passengers across Merseyside and Halton.

The deal will open the door to talks that could lead to major improvements for passengers, with Mayor Rotheram pushing for greater powers to build a fully integrated, reliable and affordable service with transparent management.

The Mayor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Mark Harper, during the official opening of the country’s newest railway station, in Kirkby.

Headbolt Lane is an £80m, fully accessible train station served by the first battery-powered passenger trains of their type in the country, cementing the city region’s place at the forefront of pioneering rail technology.

It marks another significant step in the delivery of Merseyrail for All, the Mayor’s commitment to extend the local rail network.

Today’s agreement has taken those plans one step futher by initiating the process of assessing the future of the region’s railways with Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT).

One option that the Mayor has been vocal about exploring would consider the potential of better linking together the region’s existing network infrastructure with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s transport network.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said,“From the world’s first passenger railway powered by Stephenson’s Rocket to the Dockers’ Umbrella, our region has been leading the transformation of Britain’s railways for centuries. It’s a legacy we’re proud to be continuing today with the opening of a brand new rail station served by the country’s first battery powered trains. 

“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.” 

Mayor Rotheram has consistently argued for further devolution of local rail services, with the Liverpool City Region having a proven track record of improving and investing in local services.

The region was the first area outside of London to take control of its local rail network with the Merseyrail concession in 2003, which is now one of the best-performing networks in the country and, earlier this year launched its state-of-the-art £500m publicly owned trains into passenger service.

Despite the new fleet being under public ownership, the current structure means that Network Rail is the incumbent owner and operator of the region’s railway infrastructure, including tracks, stations, signals, and points.

However, under the agreement, discussions could take place about how to better integrate infrastructure and regeneration opportunities between the rail industry and the Combined Authority, across the Merseyrail network and the region’s six local authorities, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, and Wirral.

The move would give the Combined Authority greater control over investments to create better station facilities, improve network performance and capacity and timetable enhancements, as well as expediting the delivery of projects to improve services for local people and deliver best value for money.

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