Latest Rail News

17.07.15

DfT ‘open to discussions’ on devolving rolling stock leasing

Transport minister Lord Ahmad says the government supports the further devolution of responsibilities for rail services to local authorities, including rolling stock leasing. 

Following a debate in the Lords last week, Lib Dem peer Lord Bradshaw, who in the late 1970s was director of operations for British Rail, asked whether the government thought local government is capable of assessing the full financial and associated risks of rolling stock leasing deals.

During the debate he said the government has so far not devolved any responsibility for rolling stock to the train operators – “even down to the last vehicle, they are allocated over there at Marsham Street”. 

“Will the minister devolve real responsibility, and the resources, to the local authorities so that they can match their services to the demand that is already there?” Lord Bradshaw asked. 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said some local authorities already have such expertise and have successfully procured rolling stock in the past. 

“If an authority were looking to do so for the first time then there are a number of expert advisors it could look to, and the Department for Transport would be happy to engage with local authorities to discuss rolling stock leasing,” he said. 

He added: “The government also support further devolution of responsibilities for rail services to local authorities.

“The government are working in partnership with Rail North Ltd on the next Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, and have agreed a collaborative approach with West Midlands Rail on the development of the next West Midlands franchise.” 

Discussing the Northern franchise, Lord Ahmad reiterated that the government has required bidders put in a specific requirement for 120 additional self-powered vehicles – and is committed to replacing Pacers by 2020. 

“That kind of approach will continue,” he said. “We also support further devolution, and should further services be fully devolved – as has happened, for example, in London and Merseyside – we would expect to reach agreement with the relevant local authorities for appropriate funding settlements in those areas.” 

Lord Ahmad said the government welcome propositions from local authorities, for example in the south west, to take greater responsibility for local rail services. 

“However, as I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate, such propositions need to take account of all the financial and other associated risks that go with them,” he noted. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Firstwave59   17/07/2015 at 17:05

This is madness! What do local authorities know about running railways, really? After all, you wouldn't want your local train operating company to be running your social services would you? As an example of local authority lunacy, look at what Hertfordshire County Council is thinking of doing to the Abbey Line linking St Albans and Watford. Yep... turn it into a guided busway. I rest my case.

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