Devolved rail services perform better, report argues

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A report produced by the Urban Transport Group claims that devolved rail services perform better, are more reliable and are preferred by passengers.

The report, Rail Devolution Works, looks at cases where devolution has led to improvement in rail services.

Examples highlighted are London Overground, which saw patronage increase by a third in its first year, and the investment made in Scotland’s rail network, where £800 million was invested in opening five new lines between 2002 and 2015.

The report also shows how passenger satisfaction has improved following devolution. Passenger satisfaction on Merseyrail, for example, has risen from 83 per cent in 2003 to 95 per cent in 2016.

The Urban Transport Group is an association that champions the devolution of powers to regional transport bodies. Its members include Transport for West Midlands, Merseytravel, Transport for London (TfL) and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Ben Still, managing director of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and board lead at the Urban Transport Group, said: “The Rail Devolution Works report does what it says on the tin.”

He added: “The evidence presented shows that devolution works for passengers and works for the places that devolved railways serve.

“In all cases, devolution has delivered significant benefits for passengers and communities. Local decision makers have seized the opportunity to improve services which they know are vital to their wider economic, social and environmental priorities.

“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.

“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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