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WYCA: Lack of Northern Route is ‘missed opportunity’

Transport leaders in the north of England have said Network Rail missed an opportunity to support rail devolution by not introducing a new route for the region.

Network Rail announced last week that it will create a managing director to oversee its northern portfolio. However, it argued that establishing a new route, as recommended in the Shaw report, would be too costly and disruptive.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) transport committee, said: “With the successes of Rail North and formation of Transport for the North, both made possible by transport authorities and city regions across the north working together, it is disappointing that Network Rail has missed an opportunity to build upon this devolutionary agenda.

“Taking a Northern Route approach would have ensured that Network Rail’s objectives could be better aligned with Transport for the North’s mandate to manage and enhance the north of England’s railways brief.”

However, Cllr Wakefield welcomed the fact that the managing director would provide a focus for investment in rail in the north.

“This is urgent work and I would like to see someone appointed on an interim basis as soon as possible to lead it while the recruitment process is taking place,” he said. “We would then be in a position to start identifying the work and much-needed investment required.”

The WYCA recently published meeting papers arguing that Transport for the North’s powers should be limited to avoid taking power away from local transport authorities.

Tobyn Hughes, the North East Combined Authority’s managing director of transport and lead on rail for the Urban Transport Group, said: “The full benefits of devolution will only come when the development of rail infrastructure is more closely linked to the way in which devolved rail services are planned and managed.

“At present all too often Network Rail projects which are vital to devolved authorities wider transport strategies are subject to drift and rising costs as senior Network Rail staff attention is focused elsewhere. If the government’s ambitions for accelerating growth in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and elsewhere are to be achieved then this can’t continue.

“The news on the north is a step in the right direction, although as ever it will be outcomes that count. For us that means a more responsive Network Rail that understands our priorities and which delivers on agreed schemes on time and on budget.”

(Image c. Joshua Brown)

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Joe Brown   11/10/2016 at 13:03

Re-opening the missing 12 miles or so between Skipton and Colne would be a welcome start - providing another much needed north Trans-Pennine route and restoring rail services to local communities presently forced to use road transport to remote railheads.

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