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Bradford Council leader angry over railway plans
Bradford’s leaders have protested at an apparent Government U-turn that would wreck an attempt to grab control of rail services.
Transport authorities across the North have put together a proposal to have a greater say over fares and routes – leading to a takeover, in a few years’ time.
But that plan has been thrown into jeopardy by a shock move to hand some routes to the new private operator of the East Coast inter-city franchise.
The Department for Transport (Dft) wants that company – possibly Virgin, or First Group – to be a “multi-purpose operator”, including local trains.
Councillor David Green, Bradford Council’s Labour leader, said: “It was a surprise to see this in the consultation.
“It seems that someone in the Government has made a decision to retain hold of the local rail network after all.
“On the one hand, they say they want local devolution and control – then they produce a document that flies in the face of that. It defies all logic. Rail is vital to the local economy.”
That criticism was echoed by Metro, West Yorkshire’s transport authority, which protested in a joint response to the Dft.
It warned: “This will break up the integration of local services and the benefits such integration offers. Further transfer of services would also undermine the devolution proposal made by authorities in South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and York.”
But a Dft spokesman insisted the idea was still alive, with a final decision to be made when the East Coast’s ‘invitation to tender’ (ITT) is issued next March.
However, he insisted: “We do not expect this competition to impact on the possible devolution of the Northern and TransPennine franchises.”
Northern Rail – which runs trains from Bradford to Leeds, Halifax, York, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool – is likely to be merged with the TransPennine Express franchise.
Those contests have been put back two years, until 2016 – after the next General Election – because of recent crisis that have hit the franchising system.
That prompted Labour to say it would go further, by allowing local transport chiefs to run a not-for-profit service – from 2016.
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