Rail firms want independent body to oversee network

In submissions made to a government-appointed review into rail, the firms also said long-distance routes should be serviced by more than one company.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) added that control of commuter routes could be handed over to local authorities. It suggested commuter routes could be organised in a similar way to Transport for London in the capital.

Local government oversees timetables and organisation in London, with private operators subcontracted to provide the services. “We are suggesting replacing the current franchise system as it stands at the moment,” RDG regional director Robert Nisbet told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“These proposals would result in a much more joined-up railway and greater accountability to passengers. We believe that would be best done by a system of dynamic contracts around the country.

“There would be an overarching apolitical body that would be in charge of this system, dealing with the trade-offs, but also policing it and issuing rules that bind and fines that bite.

“We are putting forward what we think is a compelling vision for both the public and private sectors working together in partnership, underpinned by an easier fare system which would deliver the best fare for any passenger whenever they took their journey.”

The Strategic Rail Authority, which was established in 2000, used to carry out this role, but it was abolished in 2004.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “In the major northern cities, and across the Northern Powerhouse, this devolution would make it possible to integrate transport better.

“This is already being worked towards, with more touch-in-and-out travel within – and in between – our towns and cities in the North.

“This would be used by more of us as passengers if the government supports the fare system being reformed more quickly.”