A major alliance of local authorities has signed an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) to take more control over two key rail franchises.
The agreement signed by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin hands more responsibility for the Northern and the TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises to Rail North – representing 29 local transport authorities from across the region.
Rail North authorities can decide on changes to their local rail services and make investments in these franchises under the agreement, which also includes mechanisms to enable further devolution to take place over the course of the franchises.
By the end of the year a core team of five headed up by a managing director will be in place on a single joint strategic board and management team based in Leeds. The board will bring together the DfT and Rail North to manage and develop these 2 new franchises once they are let.
Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘We are committed to devolving greater responsibility for decision making on transport matters to local authorities, as we invest record amounts to modernise our railways, rebalance our economy and create a northern powerhouse.
‘Rail North has already been actively involved in the design of the future Northern and TPE franchises, which will see rail services in the north of England transformed to support economic growth. This agreement is a significant step towards full devolution.’
Cllr Liam Robinson for Rail North Ltd said: ‘Our partnership approach with the Department for Transport has seen the north’s authorities play an active role in the specification of the new franchises and the evaluation of the bids.
‘Rail North is a ground-breaking regional partnership of 29 authorities coming together for the first time to ensure our rail network can play its part in creating economic prosperity across the north of England.’
Following tendering for the franchises in February this year, bidders for TPE have until 28 May 2015 to submit their bids, whereas bidders for Northern have until 26 June 2015.