Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin met leaders of Rail North Ltd (20 March 2015) at the Port of Liverpool to sign a formal agreement devolving more power to the organisation in the management of the 2 key rail franchises in the north of England which serve more than 1.1 billion passengers a year: the Northern franchise and the TransPennine Express (TPE) franchise.
Rail North represents 29 local transport authorities from across the north of England, with a specific remit to promote rail devolution and improvement of rail services.
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.
Councillor 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, and I’m delighted that the Secretary of State has signed the agreement today.
The agreement includes important mechanisms to enable the Rail North authorities to make decisions on changes to their local rail services and make investments in these franchises to make improvements. It also enables further devolution to take place during the life of the franchises.
Under the agreement, the Department for Transport will work together with Rail North, through a single joint strategic board and management team based in Leeds, to manage and develop these 2 new franchises once they are let. A core team of 5 headed by a managing director will be in place at the end of year.
Documents were published on 27 February 2015 setting set out how bidders for the new Northern and TPE franchises will be required to give rail passengers in the north of England more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains.
Bidders for the TPE franchise have until 28 May 2015 to submit their bids. For Northern, the deadline is 26 June 2015.