Johnson: We can do so much better for Northern railways

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested more control over rail services could be devolved to the North, although details of timings and funding are yet to be confirmed.

Johnson spoke at the Convention of the North in Rotherham on Friday, where he said he intended to allow Northern communities to have greater power over rail services and budgets.

Meanwhile, on BBC’s Sunday Politics London programme, a group of London Assembly MPs called for HS2 to the Midlands and North to be scrapped, and further spending on Crossrail prioritised, alongside some funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail. Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has responded, calling the members “arrogant” and “blinkered”.

Rotheram and Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham earlier this month set out five top priorities for more powers and funding to the North, including stripping Northern Rail of its franchise, and gaining £7bn of investment.

In Friday’s speech, the Prime Minister said: “On local lines in metropolitan areas, we will give greater control over fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations. And outside the combined authority areas, I want communities to take control too.

“That might be through county councils taking on similar roles, in their areas, for stations or branch lines. Or it might be by transferring local branch line and rural services to community rail partnerships, owned by local people. And as you have asked, we will give you far greater control over your budgets.”

The Prime Minister said “we can do so much better” for railways in the North. “Coming from London on the train, it took me just over an hour and a half to get to Doncaster. But if, for example, you travelled from Liverpool to Rotherham – less than half the distance – you might have had to leave an hour earlier than me, and change as many as three times.”

However, he said “as well as taking power, you will have to take responsibility. That means alongside taking the credit, you will be taking the heat.”

Devolving control is one of the key recommendations from the Williams Rail Review, led by independent chair and former chief of British Airways Keith Williams. The review’s findings and recommendations will be published in a white paper in autumn 2019.

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Nothing defines him and this government more than promising something they have ignored for 9 years. – ‘Give us another chance and we will do it this time.’


You’d be foolish to take BoJo’s comments with anything other than a pinch of salt, blatantly trying to get some voters onside before the soon possible general election.

By New Wave

Knowing how this government work and given they’re probably now feeling the heat of sustained campaigning by northern MPs and trade bodies, we must be wary that the government don’t just devolve the responsibility without also devolving proper funding. That’d be a classic Westminster / Whitehall ruse that we must be vigilant of.

By Westminster watch

Johnson will promise the earth for a few votes the man cannot be trusted.

By Lenny1968

I’m no fan of this government, or of Mr Johnson up to this point. However, a few of the things that he’s said recently give me the impression that he at least “gets it” regarding various Northern issues. Time will tell, of course (if he gets any time amid the current turmoil), but I’m willing to suspend my scepticicm, for now.

By George Stephenson

George, you are willing to ignore the last decades track record and suspend your scepticism? Very brave of you. Or maybe you are just susceptible to the tactics of Mr Johnson. My standpoint would be why should I expect a different outcome this time? Because he “really, really gets it, this time”?

By Anon

You would have to be an idiot to not see the government could do more for Northern railways. Or will responsibility simply be devolved without the necessary budget to match?

By Adam Ash

This is what they did in Wales. Gave the Welsh autonomy but no proper funding and this resulted in Wales lagging behind the rest of the UK in most statistics.They set Wales up to fail and blamed it on the Labour administration. The bottom line is funding should depend on population size and this just does not happen for the fifteen million people living in the North. The North is not East Anglia with a few towns of 70 000 people, or the West Country a place whose biggest town is about the same size as Bolton. The government do not seem to be able to grasp the sheer volume of people who need to get around.

By Elephant

When his likes aren’t being photographed with babies, they’re pinching the lollypops off them. I have heard he is giving Manchester a second airport and six new tram lines, Liverpool is getting annexed to The City and a cruise terminal for seven ships, Preston is getting the Home Office, and the Gov are going to refinance Bury FC…..He’s ‘got’ my VOTE! promises, promises.

By Billy

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