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TfN sets out power plans as it moves one step closer to statutory footing

Transport for the North (TfN) has moved one step closer to statutory footing after the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill gained royal assent this afternoon.

In response, the devolved pan-northern body has outlined its proposals for the powers it needs to improve the region’s transport connectivity, ahead of a final strategy report due in March.

The centrepiece of its arguments is the need to create a statutory northern transport strategy that clearly delineates the priorities for significant investment in the north’s inter-city rail and road network.

It will ask for powers to coordinate and prioritise a new system of smart and integrated ticketing – now required as part of any franchise – and to oversee the delivery of transformation cross-northern investments by developing plans, commissioning and coordinating the schemes itself.

As well as developing the role and powers of Rail North, TfN wants to devolve greater responsibility to oversee the Northern and TransPennine rail services, which will already be managed from Leeds as opposed to the capital.

Rail North has already had an impact in “radically improving” the specifications of these franchises, TfN said, but imminent statutory powers will create even more opportunities to make services directly accountable to the north.

RTM has previously been told that Rail North could soon become the franchising arm of TfN, and today’s milestone effectively brings that closer to reality ahead of the body’s legal footing expected for 2017.

TfN is also intent on asking the government for a further strengthening of its governance arrangements so that it can represent all communities across the north.

The body’s chair, John Cridland, reminisced on TfN’s early days as a partnership between the northern cities, fuelled just by a determination to improve the transport infrastructure across the region.

“With the passage of this Act of Parliament today, TfN can now move our partnership to a new level, speaking with one voice for the whole of the north, and with the legal powers we need to deliver on those ambitions,” he said.

“This is a big step forward for devolution, and a great opportunity to transform the connectivity of communities across the north.”

Transport minister Andrew Jones MP repeated the government’s promise to hand over £50m to TfN until the end of the decade and called today’s royal assent a “major step forward” in putting the body on statutory footing.

“Giving TfN a legal basis will ensure it has impact, influence, and the certainty to plan and drive forward projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the roll out of smart ticketing in the north.”


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