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Cinderella rail services can go to the ball, says campaign group

7 February 2013
Local rail services should be managed by local authorities rather than the Government, according to new research by Campaign for Better Transport. Drawing on the examples of Merseyrail and London Overground, the research Going Local shows that local management and accountability can improve local rail services, including passenger numbers, reliability and accessibility.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said:

"Too often local train services are the Cinderellas of the rail network - the routes in London Overground and Merseyrail certainly were. Control by the local transport authorities has transformed them. They are reliable, well-used and have some of the highest passenger satisfaction on the entire rail network. Going Local shows that passengers and communities are the winners when rail franchises are run locally. Using this model more widely would mean Cinderellas across the country could go to the ball."

The Going Local research shows how since Transport for London and Merseytravel took control of local services in 2007 and 2003 respectively, performance and satisfaction have improved, and passenger numbers have grown. Other enhancements include:

  • Upgrades to station facilities and trains
  • Increased accessibility, with stations staffed from first to last trains and services linked to smartcards
  • Better industrial relations and reduced instances of fare-dodging

Investment has been an important part of the success of Merseyrail and London Overground. The report also finds that local hands-on management of the rail operating contract has been important too, resulting in shared objectives and a partnership approach rather than reliance on legal contracts.


Going Local recommends that a process of devolving local services to local transport authorities (either individually or in groups) be undertaken. Services which could be devolved include:

  • North of England rail network
  • Local West Midlands services
  • Bristol area services
  • Commuter services into London (Transport for London has expressed an interest in taking on such a role)

Stephen Joseph said


"Ultimately, this is about trust and confidence in franchising for the public, for train operators and for those who work on the railways. We believe that London Overground and Merseyrail offer examples of how such trust and confidence can be built."



1. ‘Going Local: Lessons for rail policy from London Overground and Merseyrail’ was launched at an event on 7 February. The report is available on the Campaign for Better Transport website. The research was supported by ASLEF.