Latest Rail News

24.07.17

Devolved rail bodies boast better performance and satisfaction

Devolved rail networks have driven improvements in performance, reliability and passenger satisfaction since transport powers were handed to local regions from Whitehall, it has been claimed.

Based on these findings, a new report released by the Urban Transport Group, called Rail Devolution Works, argues the case for further devolution of powers for rail to different parts of the UK.

The study looks in detail at how devolution has had an impact on services in Merseyside, London Overground, Scotland, and the Metro service in Tyne and Wear.

It found that in the first year of London Overground patronage increased by a third and, after four years, passenger satisfaction was up from 73% to 92%. In the first year of devolution to TfL, there were 12.5% fewer delays on the network.

In Scotland, £800m has been invested in opening five new lines in the country, more than in any other parts of the UK.

Merseyrail has consistently scored over 90% in terms of passenger satisfaction since 2008, whilst Tyne & Wear Metro routes are carrying 25 times more passengers than comparative heavy rail suburban services in the area.

“When devolution happens train reliability and punctuality improves and passenger satisfaction levels increase,” the report concluded. “There is more innovation and investment. Rail services are planned with wider economic, social and environmental goals in mind.

“Rail devolution is also no longer an isolated phenomenon. To a lesser or greater extent, it is now happening, or proposed for, much of the non-intercity rail network. The best way to spread the benefits further would be to go with the grain of what has already been achieved.”

Ben Still, board lead for rail at the Urban Transport Group, said the report provides a powerful evidence base to national government on extending the benefits of rail devolution more widely.

“Devolved rail services are, by definition, much closer to the local communities they serve because the decision-makers implementing the service are both local to their communities and, crucially, accountable to those communities,” he argued. “That local knowledge allows more innovation to flourish and directs investment to where it is needed.

“Rail services are planned with wider economic, social and environmental goals in mind – leading to strengthened local economies, greater access to opportunity for local communities and more focussed urban planning, particularly around new housing developments.”

Still also claimed that the evidence in the report shows how devolution works for both passengers and the places that the devolved railways serve.

“Devolved authorities have also shown that they can effectively manage issues that arise from services that cross administrative borders through collaboration and extending the benefits of investments they make beyond their boundaries,” he continued.

“By being closer to their local rail operator and local passengers than Whitehall or central government ever could be, they have not only raised the bar on performance but also have been accountable for any shortcomings.”

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