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'REGIONS NEED TRANSPORT POWERS OFFERED TO LONDON AND WALES'

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The Campaign for the English Regions is calling on the government to give the same powers to develop integrated pub...
The Campaign for the English Regions is calling on the government to give the same powers to develop integrated public transport systems that are likely to be handed to Wales and London in the near future.

CFER spokesperson Don Price commented: 'We note that Peter Hain announced at the weekend that it is the intention of the government to introduce a new powers for the Welsh Assembly to integrate rail travel with other forms of public transport.'

Further investigation by CFER has revealed that the London Labour Party and Ken Livingstone are also committed in their manifesto to taking control of London's regional rail services to improve the integration of public transport in the capital.

Commenting, Don Price noted that: 'It is unlikely that Ken would have included such a clear commitment without the nod from the national government.'

CFER believe that the evidence from Wales and London shows that the government has accepted the principle that transport investment and management must be tailored to support overall planning (spatial) strategy for a 'region' or city. As regional spatial strategy (RTS) is a core function of the new regional assemblies the government must now also accept that the assemblies must have the same level of control of transport as Wales and London. The assemblies need the tools to deliver RTS!

Vice chair of CFER, Mary Southcott, commented: 'While we recognise these developments as good news for Londoners and the Welsh, the English regions have equally acute transport problems that need addressing. We are therefore calling the same powers for the English regions to be included in the draft bill for elected regional assemblies. If comprehensive integration of public transport is back on the agenda for London and Wales we want back on the agenda for our regions too.'

Note

The government is expected to publish a draft bill in July clarifying the powers that the new elected regional assemblies will have if they are agreed in the referendums to be held in November 2004.

The relevant extract from the Labour Party manifesto for the London mayoral and GLA elections is:

'Control over London's rail service

Large parts of Greater London depend on the national rail system. But the quality of services, the upkeep of stations and the levels of staffing fall far below the standards of the Tube and Bus networks. We have made representations to the Secretary of State for Transport in the Transport Review seeking the transfer of control of suburban rail services in London to a London Regional Rail Authority so that the services, fares and standards can be integrated with the Tube and buses. Our aim will be to rescue suburban rail lines and the stations serving them from neglect and transform them into a bright, attractive and safe part of London's transport system' (full text on www.ken4london.org.uk)

The following text is from a BBC news report of an interview with Peter Hain and others:

'Assembly to get more rail powers

Proposals giving the Welsh assembly more say over the railways in Wales are being unveiled by the UK government. The draft Transport (Wales) Bill will allow the assembly to develop a more integrated transport policy.

Currently, the Welsh assembly government controls roads in Wales, but has little say over the railways. If the bill becomes law, the assembly will be able to direct the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to improve services on the Wales and the Borders franchise.

The SRA is the body responsible for delivering the UK government's transport strategy.

If the bill is passed, the assembly government will also choose the head of the main passenger watchdog and will be required to publish a Wales Transport Strategy.

The bill would also allow the assembly to give financial assistance for air services and airport facilities, providing it does not breach European rules.

Both AMs and MPs will be able to debate the draft bill before it becomes law.

Last December, Arriva trains took over the Wales and Borders franchise.

It became the sole provider of all train services in Wales except for

long-distance Virgin and First Great Western services.

Under the deal signed in October between Arriva and the SRA, the firm is also responsible for all stations in the network.

Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain told BBC Wales the bill would boost the assembly's capacity to plan integrated transport.

'It will give them the chance to in increase investment into services which they don't have at the moment.

'It will be a good deal for commuters,' he said.

'There could be extra services - if the assembly decided a remote area or a valley line justified the extra investment, it would have the power to do that kind of thing.'

Other examples he gave were developing a bus services across local authority boundaries or using one ticket for a range of bus or train services.

'It would act as a real incentive for people to get off the road out of their cars and onto buses and trains,' he added.

Assembly transport minister Andrew Davies said: 'It means the assembly government can direct resources to the right places, filling in the gaps in the transport system, so that people have real alternatives using their cars.''

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