A GROUP of rail experts have published radical new proposals for railways in the North of England. In a submission to the Government’s Rail Review, chaired by Keith Williams, the group has called for major changes in how the North’s railways are operated, managed and owned.

The Group has called for greater integration between train operations and Network Rail, with a new devolved Network Rail North working alongside a not-for-dividend mutual company called ‘Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways’.

The proposed company should take over train services currently provided by Northern and TransPennine Express, serving the densely populated corridor between the Mersey and the Humber.

The report comes at a time when not only is the Government reviewing its rail policy, but the Metro mayors for Merseyside and Greater Manchester are calling for Northern to be stripped of its franchise with services run by the Government ‘as operator of last resort’.

The Rail Reform Group argues that the new company should be established as a mutual business, in which most profits are recycled back into the business, helping improve services. A similar approach is taken by the Welsh water company, Glas Cymru.

“Our proposal is for a middle way between traditional private ownership and nationalisation,” said a group spokesperson.

“We don’t believe the current structure is working, but old-style nationalisation is not the panacea some people believe.

"Having ‘an operator of the last resort’ can only be a short-term solution. What we need is long-term stability and growth. Franchising doesn’t deliver any of that, and adds to costs.”

The Group argues for the merging of services operated by Northern with TransPennine Express. “Northern is part of the Arriva Group, owned by German Railways (DB) which has announced its intention to sell its Arriva business.

Now could not be a better time to try something different with Northern, laying the basis for future growth and providing a first class service to the region.”

The Rail Reform Group was formed less than a year ago. It is completely independent and non-party political.

Its members have decades of high-level experience in railway management.

Prof Paul Salveson MBE

Harpers Lane