In March of this year the department signed a formal partnership agreement with Rail North, representing 29 local transport authorities. This will govern the new Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises from April 2016. The agreement includes important mechanisms to enable the Rail North authorities to make decisions on changes to their local rail services and make investments in these franchises to make improvements.
It also enables further devolution to take place during the life of the franchises. Under the agreement, the Department for Transport will work together with Rail North, through a single joint strategic board and management team based in Leeds, to manage and develop these 2 new franchises once they are let. A core team of 5 headed by a managing director will be in place at the end of year.
Rail North has already been actively involved in the design of the future Northern and TPE franchises and the Partnership Agreement is a significant step towards full devolution of rail services. The franchise specification took into account the uncertainty in delivery of Transpennine electrification.