Rail regulation must remain in the North, say Into the West

Jim McBride.

Jim McBride.

The rail lobby Into the West has called for the Department of Infrastructure to cancel the transfer of the North’s rail regulation to London as demanded by a recent European edict, saying such a move will remove accountability from the local Assembly.

Jim McBride of the campaign group has written to the Rail Minister Chis Hazzard objecting to the proposed transfer.

It’s taking place because European Commission Directive 2012/34 demands a single national regulatory body for the railway sector for each member state, which in our case is the United Kingdom. The regulatory body for railways in the North is thus currently in the process of being changed from the Department of Infrastructure to the Office of Rail and Road in London in order to satisfy this requirement.

But Mr McBride has written to the Department to object. “Translink will have to be divided into two separate companies with one company responsible for railway operations and the other responsible for railway infrastructure,” he wrote.

“The company operating rail passenger services will be forced to pay track access charges to the infrastructure company. Translink will also be required to submit detailed business plans to the ORR on an annual basis.

“At present Translink is a fully integrated public transport company in public ownership - which makes it unique across the UK.

“The suggested proposals will only increase costs as well as adding an extra layer of administration to meet some EU directives, which may be no longer mandatory by 2019 due to ‘Brexit.’ The proposed transfer of responsibility and regulatory powers will remove accountability for these matters from the NI Assembly. This is a matter for concern, combined with the unnecessary break up of NIR into two separate companies which could even result in the future privatisation of rail services - which has happened with all other UK rail services.”

Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann said: “These are not minor adjustments. There are matters of principle involved, as well as major practical considerations.”