A detailed partnership between Rail North, representing local authorities across the North of England, and the Department for Transport was approved on Friday by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Rail North has now formally entered into a partnership with the Department for Transport for the renewal of the Northern and TransPennine rail franchises. Details of the partnership were presented to a meeting of McLoughlin and the leaders of all 33 local transport authorities represented by Rail North, in Manchester.
Rail North's key franchise objectives are:
- minimum baseline set of services broadly equivalent to today's level of service, which can form commitment between Government and Northern authorities
- service development in line with economic and connectivity objectives of Northern Hub programme, electrification, and other initiatives
- additional capacity to support growth
- multimodal smart ticketing
- increasing quality of passenger offer through replacement of life-expired trains with modern equivalents and refurbishment of older carriages
- station improvements focussing on passenger security, retail/information and car/cycle parking
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and vice chairman of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: "I'm delighted that the Secretary of State has been able to give his seal of approval to the work done by Rail North and the Department for Transport to make this Partnership a reality. We believe that a devolved railway will focus more on the places of the North, their prosperity and passengers. The railway has a key role to play in a more robust North of England economy, and sustainable economic growth must be supported by improved connectivity across the North.
"The joint working between the north of England authorities builds on the priorities and approach taken in making the case for the Northern Hub and the north of England rail electrification infrastructure projects. The new Partnership will focus on growing the railway to maximise the benefits of investment and determining future investment priorities, while at the same time providing passengers with better services and delivering a more efficient railway.
"Rail North's involvement in the North of England Electrification Task Force is a further example of the developing partnership between the Department for Transport and the North."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "I am pleased to have agreed further details with Rail North regarding our partnership to run rail services in the north of England for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers. I am determined to give local people a greater say in running their railways and this will make sure they are at the heart of these decisions. Officials will now work hard to take these proposals forward as we get set for the competitions for the Northern and TransPennine franchises from 2016."
The agreed partnership principles will include:
- collaborative design of franchises between Rail North and DfT, recognising the Secretary of State's responsibilities including securing affordability and value for money
- arrangements for a single integrated partnership structure to manage the franchises
- the development of formal inclusive decision-making structures that will inform and set the future direction for rail service development in the North
The process of replacing the franchises for TransPennine and Northern rail services will begin in mid-2014, and include a public consultation on future rail services in the North. Operators are expected to be confirmed in late 2015, and the new franchises begin in February 2016.