21.45 Sunday October 20th 2013
PRESS RELEASE: (immediate)
The North needs a better, publicly-owned and accountable, railway
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation – the North’s campaign for regional devolution – has called for a major enhancement of the North’s rail network with rail services managed by a directly-elected Northern Assembly and run on a not-for-dividend basis.
In its response to the Rail North consultation on its ‘Long Term Rail Strategy’ the Foundation has called for “a compelling vision which puts a publicly-owned railway at the heart of a new North”. It argues for a programme of electrification and line re-openings which would provide the capacity and jobs the North urgently needs and could be delivered more quickly than HS2 – and bring greater benefits.
Prof. Paul Salveson, General Secretary of the Foundation, said “We would like to see the re-opening of the Ashington Blyth and Tyne and Leamside Lines in the North-East , Skipton-Colne, Penrith – Keswick, Bradford Cross-Rail, re-opening of the Woodhead Route (Manchester – Sheffield) and new lines to Fleetwood and Skelmersdale. Many locations could benefit from new stations and a Northern-wide ‘new stations strategy’ is needed.” He added that “we need to be more creative in our vision for stations which should become social, business and cultural centres as well as transport interchanges”.
His views were echoed by Foundation chair Barry Winter who said that rail in The North should be democratically accountable. “Our strong view is that Rail North should, in future, be answerable to a directly-elected Northern Assembly with a transport committee comprising elected members working closely with an experienced executive team. Rail North, with its 33 member authorities, each with their own agenda, demonstrates the need for a single pan-Northern elected body. Scotland has responsibility for its rail network and it has worked very well; so has Merseyside- the North as a whole should have the same.”
The Foundation argues that a new approach to rail in the North should put people before profit and point to the £108m profit made by the two Northern franchises last year, despite public subsidies totalling over £600m. “We want to see a future Northern Railways which is owned by the people of the North of England – passengers and employees – and not private shareholders whose prime concern is short-term profit, said Paul Salveson. “We think this could be achievable relatively quickly, when the current franchise ends in 2016 – and we invite interested organisations and individuals to work with us to achieve it.” Ends/ For more information ring Paul Salveson 07795 008691
Note for editors
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is a broadly-based campaign for Northern devolution, supported by many Northern MPs and peers. Linda Riordan (MP for Halifax) is president of the Foundation. The Foundation was founded in March 2012 to lobby for devolution to the North of England and is rapidly building up support across the North of England. Its patrons include Lord Prescott, several MPs and the grandson of Hannah Mitchell. Hannah (1871-1946) was a radical activist who was imprisoned during the agitation for women’s votes. She went on to become a popular councillor in the Newton Heath ward of Manchester. Although she had just two weeks of formal schooling she was a talented writer.