Liverpool Metro Mayor takes 'transformational' step towards full control of Merseyrail network
Mayor Rotheram is pushing for greater powers to build a 'reliable and affordable service with transparent management'.
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Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has signed a rail devolution deal that could see him take full control of the Merseyrail network.
Described by a spokesperson for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as 'transformational', the deal will open the door to talks that could lead to major improvements for passengers across Merseyside and Halton.
On Thursday (November 16), Transport Secretary Mark Harper visited the new Headbolt Lane station at Kirkby, funded by the Combined Authority, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mayor Rotheram.
The region became the first area outside of London to take control of its local rail network back in 2003, and also launched its first publicly owned, battery-powered trains into passenger service earlier this year. However, the new fleet has faced repeated problems, particularly on the Kirkby line, with Mayor Rotheram describing the roll-out as 'frustratingly poor'.
Despite Merseyrail's new trains being publicly owned, Network Rail remains the owner and operator of the region’s railway infrastructure, including its tracks, stations, signals and points.
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 the Wirral.
Mayor Rotheram is pushing for greater powers to build a 'reliable and affordable service with transparent management' and says the deal 'signifies not only a massive moment for our region – but the start of a new wave of devolution for the country'.
He added: “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.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the agreement 'demonstrates this Government’s commitment to transforming public transport across the country' and 'empowering elected leaders'.
He continued: “This agreement follows over a billion pounds of funding committed to the city through our Network North plans and will kickstart transport improvements for people across the city, making journeys affordable and accessible for all.”