UK: The Department for Transport has agreed a partnership to begin the process of devolving more responsibility for specifying and managing passenger services to local authorities in the north of England.

The agreement, announced by the Rail North group of 33 local authorities following a meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in Manchester on January 24, paves the way for a more collaborative approach to managing local rail services. Initially, Rail North and DfT will collaborate on the design of the next Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, which between them account for most regional services in the local authority areas covered. The refranchising competition for both Northern and TransPennine Express is expected to begin in the middle of this year, with a view to the next franchise terms starting in February 2016.

DfT and Rail North will then work to create ‘a single integrated partnership structure’ to manage the two franchises, and develop ‘inclusive decision-making structures’ that will ‘inform and set the future direction for rail development in the north’.

‘I am pleased to have agreed further details with Rail North regarding our partnership to run rail services in the north of England for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers’, said McLoughlin. ‘I am determined to give local people a greater say in running their railways and this will make sure they are at the heart of these decisions. Officials will now work hard to take these proposals forward as we get set for the competitions for the Northern and TransPennine franchises.’