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THE next North East devolution deal must see control of train stations handed back to the region to stop train companies winding down vital community assets, Kim McGuinness has said.

North East mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has said plans to close ticket stations across the region “show that neither rail franchisees nor Government ministers can be trusted to invest in our infrastructure”.

Train operating companies such as Northern and LNER are currently consulting on plans to close all but one North East ticket station. It is feared the move will lead to significant job losses and turn the railways in to no-go areas for those with disabilities or no regular internet access to cheaper tickets.

Kim McGuinness, Labour’s candidate for next May’s mayoral election, said the plans show how important it is for train stations to be publicly-controlled.

“Rail station devolution needs to be in the next devolution deal, and as mayor I’ll fight to take stations out of the hands of private companies and back in to local control,” she said.

Kim was backed by Martin Gannon, chair of Transport North East and one of the council leaders to negotiate the current devolution deal with Government.

The Gateshead Council leader said it was important the region pushed ahead to secure greater devolution in a future deal.

He said: “The devolution deal we have now is just a start. We know we need more devolution from Government to our region if we are going to create real change.

“Integrating our transport network is key to our economic success, and it’s right that councils and the mayor have a bigger say over all parts of the local network.”

Kim added: “Our train stations are community assets, but they are being run-down by train companies who would rather they were nothing more than a platform.

“What they need is long-term investment so they can be safe, thriving stations that support small independent businesses and community groups.

“The public should be able to elect councils and mayors who can work together to safeguard these key community assets instead of watching as train firms turn their back on them.

“Yes, a mayor might not be able to run the actual ticket offices on behalf of the rail companies, but we can make train stations a more welcoming place to offset these cuts. So as mayor I’ll fight for real devolution that sees stations become regional economic assets under public control.”

Taking stations into public control would also allow the North East to better align station redevelopment with wider regeneration projects, bringing in more revenue as stations become a bigger feature of the local economy.

Kim has already set out wider transport plans for the North East including bringing buses back under public control and introducing an integrated ticket policy so only one ticket or pass is needed for any journey on bus or Metro.

And the mayoral candidate says she wants to see the North East have a much bigger say over local rail franchises in order to ensure better performance for passengers and greater ticket integration with the local network.

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