Plan to end rail and road misery

TRANSPORT chiefs are hoping the formation of a regionwide “super council” will help them tackle the train and road nightmares that have plagued Greater Manchester for years.

Earlier this week, all 10 Greater Manchester authorities agreed to submit a scheme to the Government to create the new city region authority — the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) — which will be given greater powers to coordinate transport, regeneration and economic development.

Transport bosses hope this will give them a greater say on both highways and rail matters, currently carried out by the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA).

For years, the train network across Greater Manchester has suffered from chronic overcrowding with promises of extra carriages made and then not delivered. And in Bolton alone there is a £50million backlog of work needed to repair the crumbling roads, with the rest of the region in as bad a state.

Cllr Keith Whitmore, chairman of the GMITA, said: “This marks a move towards a real and tangible transfer of powers from central government to the City Region, and that is to be welcomed.

“It would give Greater Manchester’s leaders more influence over heavy rail services and strategies, and offers a more integrated way of managing our roads — all of which will help provide coherent solutions to our transport needs so we can provide the best for the City Region.”

The proposals include new protocols for rail, covering policy, strategy and planning, research, project delivery and engagement, and would give the new GMCA more influence over key issues such as the development of the Northern Hub and High Speed Rail proposals and the provision of much-needed extra carriages.

It would also give them the power to propose changes to draft Department for Transport (DfT) specifications in the rail franchise process, meaning they could introduce tighter powers on firms in terms of performance.

The submission for the creation of the GMCA will now go to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the DfT and, if approved by ministers, will then be subject to consultation.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, which would be replaced by the GMCA, has requested that the new authority should be created as from April 1, 2011.

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