Authorities in Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire have formally proposed to the Government that decisions about rail services in the north of England should be devolved to the north of England. A combined franchise to succeed the current Northern and TransPennine franchises should be specified and managed from the north of England, rather than from London.
The proposals will focus on economic growth through more capacity for people to get to work, more frequent and faster services between the main centres of the north, and improvements at stations and in rolling stock. Decisions about railways in the north of England will be made in the north of England.
With over 80% of local and regional train services running through their areas, West Yorkshire and York, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester would make up the core members of the new franchising body, and work with authorities across the North to develop strategies, specifications and manage future franchises.
Transport for Greater Manchester said, “In West Yorkshire, Metro already spends over £70m annually supporting 25m journeys on local train services and we are certain that we can use our local knowledge and industry experience to introduce measures that would improve passenger services,” said Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis.
“Our plans will deliver better value for money from rail funding, and ensure expenditure is better aligned to other local spending programmes, and the priorities of Local Enterprise Partnerships in driving economic growth in our cities and across the North.”
“Our proposals for rail devolution will build on the strong working relationships the north of England has developed, for example, in making the case over the past three years for the Northern Hub. By creating a common approach across the North we believe we will be able to secure improvements to the railway that are better focussed on the needs of the North,” said Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee.
“Our aim is to shape services at local levels, while at the same time working together on region-wide issues such as developing better inter-regional services between major centres through further electrification. We all share a strong interest in ensuring rail in the north plays a bigger role in contributing to rebalancing the UK economy. We also want to get the best out of the £1 billion Government has already committed to the Northern Hub and north of England electrification programmes; these programmes will deliver benefits that spread from Liverpool, to Newcastle, and from Carlisle to Hull.”
A key challenge faced under the new arrangements would be the upgrade of rolling stock. Cllr Mick Jameson, Chair of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, said: “A key outcome from this process is to provide a framework for investment in better trains, so that there is more capacity for growing passenger numbers, and trains are of increasing quality to attract more people to the railway.”
“Enabling us to react quickly to local needs will greatly enhance the attractiveness of rail for commuters and leisure travellers alike, provide economic incentives for businesses, and improve the case for further investment. Public consultation of the specifications for the new franchise will begin later this year.”