Manchester seeks station devolution

Photo: Network Rail.

Greater Manchester’s transport authority has submitted proposals which, if supported, could see it assume ownership of the county’s railway stations.

Under the plans, entitled ‘Case for Change’, the ownership and management of Greater Manchester’s stations would transfer from Network Rail and individual train operators to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) by the mid 2020s.

TfGM says the county’s 94 local stations could potentially be transferred in the next two to three years followed a few years later by the three main city centre stations: Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria and Oxford Road.

Its vision will allow Manchester’s stations to “realise their full potential”, becoming the hubs of their communities, TfGM believes.

In the submission document, the authority said it had considered various ownership models, including an alliance model, but decided full ownership was the only option that would allow it to meet its objectives. However, Network Rail will remain responsible for all of the operational rail infrastructure, like the track and overhead lines.

The proposals, which build on the 2014 Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement, have been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Jon Lamonte, TfGM’s chief executive, said in a statement: “Under the current system, Greater Manchester’s rail stations have not developed in line with customer expectations.

“This is an innovative approach that that would transform local stations into transport hubs that are well-used, offer a pleasant travel experience and improve quality of life by offering a useful asset for the local community.

“The recent redevelopment of Irlam rail station has already showcased how our vision can become a reality, demonstrating just what can be achieved when local stations realise their full social and economic potential.”

The proposals also talk about rejuvenating unused land next to some of the stations for housing and new commercial developments. Last September, Network Rail announced its own plans to develop 200 sites around the country for housing. One of these was the former Exchange Station site in Manchester.

In a supplied statement, Martin Frobisher, London North Western (LNW) route managing director, Network Rail, said: “Network Rail welcomes any ambition to drive investment into stations for the benefit of passengers and local communities.

“What is now key is that we work through the detail of the business case with all relevant partners to see if these proposals will deliver these benefits.”