TfGM welcomes rail franchise signals

Transport for Greater Manchester said the Department for Transport's new plan for rail franchises was "encouraging" for its proposed merger of the Northern and TransPennine franchises.

Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman of the TfGM Committee, said: "We welcome the greater clarity and certainty [the] announcement provides on the timescales involved with the refranchising process.

"It is also encouraging to see that the next Northern and TransPennine franchises are now scheduled to start at the same time, which appears to align to the aspiration we and our colleagues across the North have to merge the franchise.

"That aspiration forms a key part of the proposals we've put to Government to see local and regional rail services come under regional control. While no decision has been made on our so-called 'devolution' plans, renewing both franchises at the same time certainly makes our aspirations far simpler, more cost effective and, in turn, far more achievable."

On Tuesday, the Department for Transport published the schedule for awarding franchises over the next eight years, including a likely extension to Virgin's West Coast operation until the end of March 2017.

Fender added: "In the meantime, it would appear likely that the current franchises will be extended to the revised renewal date announced today. If that is agreed, we will be seeking assurances that the terms and conditions of their extensions deliver improvements and benefits for passengers."

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