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10.12.15

Rail franchises in the north to be managed from the north, not London

Rail North could soon become the franchising arm of Transport for the North (TfN), PSE has been told. 

David Brown, the former Merseytravel boss who was recently appointed chief executive of TfN, said it was great news that Rail North, an organisation he helped establish, would be jointly managing the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises with the DfT from April. This will be done from Leeds, not London. 

But he added that TfN would hopefully incorporate Rail North in the future, after TfN itself becomes a statutory body by 2017. “Part of our remit, therefore, will hopefully include managing the franchises and, in the future, maybe, letting those franchises,” said Brown. “So Rail North will become part of TfN and become the franchising part of our organisation.” 

Rail North is made up of 29 councils with transport authority functions from across the north of England. TfN has a wider membership, as it works with local enterprise partnerships, Highways England, Network Rail, HS2 Ltd, national agencies and the government. 

The merger proposals would help strengthen devolution in the north, he said, which will already be bolstered by the move to manage the current franchises from Leeds jointly with the DfT

“There is a lot of talk about devolution but that is a task currently done by central government done in London, that will now been done by the north with the Department from Leeds. It is real devolution in action,” said Brown. 

Discussing the incorporation of Rail North, he told PSE it makes sense as the northern membership is still being represented, there is a governance model already in place, and there is a political element to the organisation. “It isn’t about getting rid of something and creating something new, it will be about bringing Rail North together with TfN.” 

Back in March, TfN committed itself to becoming a “representative body” for the whole of the north of England that can speak with one voice to government on the region’s transport investment priorities. This included developing its relationship with Rail North. 

PSE’s full interview with Brown appears in our December/January 2016 edition.

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