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Rail Devolution, Manchester's Big Property Chance?


Could Greater Manchester be about to take control of the last, massive, slice of transport infrastructure, opening the door to the kind of infrastructure-inspired property investment which dominates London? The answer is: very possibly.

With last year's Northern Rail and Transpennine timetabling chaos still a vivid memory, taking local control of the rail network has powerful appeal to politicians and commuters. It would complete a local transport network that already includes buses and trams.

In London, local control extends to rail and has allowed the redevelopment of former rail services into what is now branded as London Overground. The Overground has brought many areas back into the property market, and increased prices elsewhere.

Now the Rail Delivery Group of rail franchise holders, has called for franchising of city services to mirror the arrangement in London, where the mayoral authority (Transport for London) takes control of rail issues.

The group said that the current one-size-fits-all franchise system would be replaced with different types of services designed to suit the needs of different groups of passengers.

"On some mass-commuter routes there would be democratically accountable, TfL-style single-branded concessions, where an integrated transport body is given more devolved control and rail companies are better integrated to deliver services for passengers," the Williams report for the Rail Delivery Group said.

Mayor Andy Burnham has welcomed the call.

“People here deserve a London-style system which makes public transport more convenient and affordable," Burnham said. "We urgently need the ability to link train services to Metrolink and buses. The case for greater local control is clear. I want to see real steps taken towards our commuter services being run locally as ‘Greater Manchester Rail’."