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.