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Plans for future of Bradford rail services halted
West Yorkshire transport chiefs are seeking a meeting with new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to clarify proposals for the future operation of local train services.
The move comes after plans for future franchises hit the buffers following the debacle over the renewal of the West Coast rail franchise.
Coun James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire transport authority Metro, together with his counterparts from South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, are seeking the meeting to discuss the devolution of rail services in the North of England proposed earlier this year by the Department for Transport, which is consulting on the issue.
This includes services in the Bradford district currently operated by Northern Rail, whose franchise is due to expire in April 2014 after being extended.
However, plans for local control of train services – which is seen as a means of reducing costs and increasing efficiency – have been halted, along with any rail franchise renewals, in the wake of the West Coast debacle.
The West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority executive board will discuss the issue on Friday.
It is seeking guidance on what impact the Government’s decision to halt all franchise renewals pending the outcome of two inquiries into what went wrong with the West Coast franchise process will have on the future of local services.
While the formal process of refranchising services currently operated by Northern Rail and TransPennine had not started when the Government halted franchise renewals, the programme and timescale for services in the North of England will depend on the review of the franchising process.
Metro bosses say they are discussing the implications with the Department for Transport. While any decision on who will run the trains is held up, work on developing policies on improvements to rolling stock, stations and ticketing will proceed so officials are ready to discuss them with the Department for Transport once the process re-starts.
A Metro spokesman said they were waiting for a meeting with the Transport Secretary to be arrangedOnce franchising restarted, the intention was to merge the current Northern and Transpennine services under the control of local authorities as part of devolved rail operations.
The spokesman stressed, however, that the plan depended on there being no objections or rival bids to run the regional rail services in Northern England.