The case for devolution of urban and regional rail

London Overground
To realise the potential of regional and urban rail remote control from Whitehall needs to be replaced by local control by cities and regions

Our ‘Rail Devolution Works’ report shows that devolution of responsibilities for urban and regional rail services works because local decision makers are closer to the ground in ensuring that local rail services mesh with wider local and regional plans for transport and economic development. As a result where responsibilities for rail have already been devolved we have seen higher customer satisfaction, more investment and rapid patronage growth.

This section of our website sets out the rail devolution success story so far and makes the case for keeping up the momentum so that more passengers, cities and regions can benefit (such as in our Rail cities UK and Action stations reports).

Related Documents

Making rail reform work for people and places in the city regions

December, 2021

This statement calls for rail reform to both build on the success of the devolution of rail powers which has already taken place, and for structured and meaningful involvement for the city regions in how rail reform plans unfold.

It sets out a range of scenarios for how the proven benefits of devolving further responsibilities for rail could be extended to more passengers and places. These include options for extending and deepening local control and accountability for both rail services, infrastructure and investment.

Action stations: How devolution is transforming rail stations for the better

August, 2020

This report focuses on the benefits of the involvement of devolved authorities in rail stations.

It does so by looking at over 35 case studies of how and why devolved authorities have improved stations for the better in recent years – and the wide range of different kinds of benefits that this has brought for passengers and the places the railway serves. These benefits include helping to meet local housing need and sparking regeneration, turning run-down stations into gateways and places to be proud of, and improving the accessibility and environmental performance of station buildings.

The report goes further by looking at the potential to achieve even greater results through devolving more responsibilities for stations, such as delivering common branding with the rest of the local public transport network, through to ensuring plans and funding for stations is integrated with wider plans around housing, economic development and decarbonisation.

Rail Cities UK: Our vision for their future

June, 2018

Significant rail expansion is the 'only viable option' to help UK cities achieve their ambitions on economic growth and meeting housing demand, whilst also creating attractive urban centres with less road traffic and better air quality.

This report sets out a vision of what a step change in rail provision could mean for passengers and cities - and the obstacles that stand in the way.

Rail Devolution Works

July, 2017

Our ‘Rail Devolution Works’ report argues that further rail devolution will enable other regions and areas to also radically transform rail services in a way that supports economic growth at the same time as improving the journey experience for passengers.

The report takes a detailed look at how devolution changed rail services for the better in Merseyside, on London Overground, in Scotland and in Tyne and Wear.


Destination Growth: the case for Britain's regional railways

October, 2015

This report sets out the success of regional rail over the past decade and a half despite limited investment when compared to other rail sectors. The report then goes on to develop two hypothetical scenarios to demonstrate how investment in regional rail could deliver even greater benefits, significantly reducing subsidy and growing the benefits delivered to our city region economies.