Liverpool’s public transport body, Merseytravel, is petitioning the government for control over commissioning track and signalling for its Merseyrail Electrics network, which is currently under the control of Network Rail

Merseytravel said the move, which would put it in charge of letting work on its multimillion pound network upgrade programme, would save the government millions of pounds in procurement efficiencies. It added that this would “cut track and signalling failures and reduce the number of trains that are delayed or cancelled by at least a third”.

It added: “Crucially, it would provide a benchmark by which Network Rail’s performance could be assessed – something that isn’t possible at the moment.”

Merseytravel’s proposal was made under the government’s Multi Area Agreement (MAA), which gives groups of councils flexibility to spend money in pursuit of agreed targets.

Merseytravel has been battling to maintain its own infrastructure since 2005 and has the backing of the Office of the Rail Regulator. However, Network Rail has consistently refused the request.

Merseytravel is unique in the UK for being able to award its own operator franchise.