In response to the publication by the Department for Transport of ‘Shaping the Future of Rail Franchising’, Neil Scales, Chair of pteg, said:
‘The Government is right to look again at how franchises are structured and how to secure more investment. The consultation document recognises the important role that we play on local rail, but we want to go further.'
‘As the locally accountable bodies responsible for local transport for the six largest city regions outside London, we will be arguing for a bigger say in the planning and development of our local rail networks through the franchising process. This could range from full vertical integration of track and trains for self-contained networks like Merseyrail Electrics, to a greater role in specification and responsibility for local rail services elsewhere in our areas.
‘Decentralising control over local rail networks works - as the success of London Overground, Merseyrail Electrics and Scotrail shows. Devolution of rail powers to local, accountable bodies like PTEs will address many of the issues raised in the franchising document, allowing greater focus on what matters to local commuters, enabling greater integration of local rail services with other modes and, crucially, unlocking the opportunity for more investment by PTEs and others.’
The consultation document advocates longer franchises to enable greater investment by train operators and other changes to allow franchise holders more flexibility and freedom to invest and innovate.
Neil Scales added:
‘One size doesn’t fit all where franchises are concerned. Long franchises can work for local rail services if the relevant sub-national strategic transport authority is involved. But it is that involvement that is more important than the length of the franchise per se. In the coming weeks and months we look forward to setting out in more detail the benefits that devolution can bring, and the ways in which greater devolution might be brought to local heavy rail networks in practice.'
For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485