The Government’s long-awaited White Paper on its ‘levelling up’ agenda was published on 2 February, with public transport improvements a key target to improve productivity and living standards.
Improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing are proposed to boost local public transport, and the Government says it will implement the Integrated Rail Plan to improve the rail network in the Midlands and the North.
Devolution could give more local control of public transport, including priority for new partnerships with Great British Railways. These partnerships are intended to ‘encompass the whole passenger offer and long-term strategy for railways in a local area’. They could include the ability for local leaders to integrate ticketing and fares, control stations and buy additional services or infrastructure to achieve local transport and housing priorities more effectively than at present.
In response to the White Paper, Rail Delivery Group Director General Andy Bagnall said: ‘The railway is crucial to successfully ‘levelling up’ the country. It has the power to boost local economies, connect people to jobs and transport goods to businesses. To get reform right and deliver what passengers want, it’s essential that the new passenger service contracts enable Great British Railways to guide, rather than control, the industry and to listen to and empower operators and the regions.’