TRANSPORT FOR Greater Manchester has submitted a business case to the Department for Transport to take over 96 rail stations in the Manchester area.

TfGM says the wholesale transfer of ownership and management from Network Rail and train operators will help stations realise their full potential. Subject to an ‘in principle’ agreement from Government by the summer, 94 local stations could transfer in the next two or three years, with Manchester’s Victoria and Oxford Road stations following in the mid-2020s. Piccadilly has been excluded from the plans at present pending a wholesale review of the station as part of HS2 and in recognition of its strategic importance as part of the national network.

TfGM says if the transfer is approved it would invest over £400 million in the stations during the next two decades. Its vision is for stations to become community hubs, offering facilities such as gyms, health centres, cafés and becoming cultural venues including spaces for performing and visual arts, while space could also be provided to support new business start-ups. The transformation of Irlam station, completed in 2015, is cited as a possible example of the model to follow.

Local authorities believe the current model of station ownership does not allow for long-term customer focus and planning, due to the short length of franchise contracts. Following consideration of six possible ownership models, the preferred option selected is for full responsibility for ownership, management and operations to be transferred away from Network Rail and train operators. It is assumed funds currently invested by NR and operators would be redirected to TfGM in a ‘cost neutral’ manner, and it is estimated the transport investment made possible by the transfer would have a benefit-cost ratio of 2.1:1.