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Greater Manchester Rail (GM Rail)

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Purple Orange

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Following the introduction of plans for the franchise of the bus network in Greater Manchester, the current Mayor has manifesto plans for the creation of GM Rail.


Therefore I’d be interested to read people’s views on how this could come about and what services it might include?

In my opinion, I see this as closely linked to the ending of the current franchise system and the proposals put forward by the government to operate our rail network. With that in mind, I see it as any Northern service that runs through Central Manchester, however it would be under the TfGM umbrella.
 
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JonathanH

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I think it only really relates to ticketing as the mayor's control doesn't really go much further. Tram Train is only a possibility and clearly Andy Burnham recognises that he needs agreement of central government.

The last piece in the Bee Network jigsaw will be to bring commuter rail services and stations under our control, as promised by the Prime Minister at the Convention of the North in 2019. So we will develop plans for GM Rail over the coming years, including the possibility of tram-train by integrating the rail network with Metrolink. We will work constructively with the Government to deliver the Bee Network, but we are clear that transport in Greater Manchester will only be levelled up with London when our residents can benefit from a similar fare structure as we see in the Capital. The Bee Network will be complete by 2030. It will be an all-electric bus and tram system running on renewable energy, as Metrolink does today, but over all modes in time. It will allow people to change the way they move around our city-region. We believe it is a compelling vision which will take our city-region up to the next level. The Bee Network will improve life in every community in Greater Manchester, linking public transport to active travel and using a brand and livery that shows it belongs to the people of our city-region.

In my opinion, I see this as closely linked to the ending of the current franchise system and the proposals put forward by the government to operate our rail network. With that in mind, I see it as any Northern service that runs through Central Manchester, however it would be under the TfGM umbrella.
The biggest problem with local running of the rail network is that almost no service (other than stuff to Wigan, Rochdale, the Airport and some of the South East stuff) is self contained within Manchester.

So, even if control was taken of "any Northern service that runs through Central Manchester, that service also runs through Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and West Yorkshire (and sometimes beyond).
 

Bletchleyite

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I would see it being similar to the Merseyrail City Line, i.e. GM pays for things like dedicated branding/liveries, its own publicity, for improved timetables etc but the services remain operated by Northern. A given service could of course be a Merseyrail service at one end and a GM Rail service at the other end.

Plenty of precedent for this, including in the Teutonic land of integration milk and honey :)
 
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Purple Orange

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I think it only really relates to ticketing as the mayor's control doesn't really go much further. Tram Train is only a possibility and clearly Andy Burnham recognises that he needs agreement of central government.




The biggest problem with local running of the rail network is that almost no service (other than stuff to Wigan, Rochdale, the Airport and some of the South East stuff) is self contained within Manchester.

So, even if control was taken of "any Northern service that runs through Central Manchester, that service also runs through Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and West Yorkshire (and sometimes beyond).

I don’t think it would be ‘local running’ as such. Services would still go to Crewe & Blackpool etc, but the tendering of the contract to run the stopping services that run through Manchester would be administered by Greater Manchester, under the GM Rail brand.
 

JonathanH

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I don’t think it would be ‘local running’ as such. Services would still go to Crewe & Blackpool etc, but the tendering of the contract to run the stopping services that run through Manchester would be administered by Greater Manchester, under the GM Rail brand.
Yes, quite, but that tendering is going to have to be in conjunction with the Merseyside and West Yorkshire authority, not Greater Manchester on its own.
 

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Are we really calling it the 'Bee network'

Dear god, can't we do better than that.
 

Purple Orange

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Yes, quite, but that tendering is going to have to be in conjunction with the Merseyside and West Yorkshire authority, not Greater Manchester on its own.

I’m not sure it would. GMCA wants to see further devolution of powers and this could be it. Is that how Merseyrail would be tendered I.e. Merseyside plus Cheshire West?
 

Bletchleyite

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I’m not sure it would. GMCA wants to see further devolution of powers and this could be it. Is that how Merseyrail would be tendered I.e. Merseyside plus Cheshire West?

Merseyrail Electrics is already tendered by the PTE. However, it's quite different from the Manchester area services (other than Hadfield/Glossop, the Atherton line*, Picc-Hazel Grove as a self-contained service and Rose Hill) in that it's self contained in an area that is almost contiguous with the political boundary. Most of Manchester's services are more like the Merseyrail "City Line" in that they're just regional services with extra financial support and a ticketing package.

In essence you can think of the comparison as Merseyrail Electrics = Metrolink, and the rest of it is the "City Line".

* Assuming it didn't go any further than Skem or Wigan with Merseyrail meeting it there.
 

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If it's based on the Merseyrail concession set-up, then I think it could work.
 

Bletchleyite

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If it's based on the Merseyrail concession set-up, then I think it could work.

It could, but on very few routes - basically Hadfield, Rose Hill, Hazel Grove and Atherton. Is there much point in such a small TOC? Particularly if Rose Hill and Hadfield are Metrolinked there is very little left.

Manchester's Merseyrail is the tram.
 

PTR 444

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It could, but on very few routes - basically Hadfield, Rose Hill, Hazel Grove and Atherton. Is there much point in such a small TOC? Particularly if Rose Hill and Hadfield are Metrolinked there is very little left.

Manchester's Merseyrail is the tram.
Surely a Manchester-based TOC could cover all Northern operated routes in the North West rather than just those within the Greater Manchester boundary, or does the mayor not want that?
 

Purple Orange

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If it's based on the Merseyrail concession set-up, then I think it could work.

It could, but on very few routes - basically Hadfield, Rose Hill, Hazel Grove and Atherton. Is there much point in such a small TOC? Particularly if Rose Hill and Hadfield are Metrolinked there is very little left.

Manchester's Merseyrail is the tram.

There is no way it could really work like that. The point of it is to take services away from Northern. I fail to see why a situation can’t be imagined whereby all Northern services that are based on Manchester can’t be under one GM Rail franchise.

TfW isn’t just focussed on Wales, East Midlands trains run to Liverpool, LNER and TPE head to Scotland, London NorthWestern is primarily a London TOC that goes to Birmingham and South Western is based in the South East.
 

Bletchleyite

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Surely a Manchester-based TOC could cover all Northern operated routes in the North West rather than just those within the Greater Manchester boundary, or does the mayor not want that?

It would not be politically acceptable for Greater Manchester's politicians to wholly control Lancashire or Merseyside's rail services. You can accept a bit of bleed (think Chester/Ellesmere Port/Ormskirk, or in Manchester's case Hadfield or Skem), but it wouldn't be acceptable for Manchester's metro mayor* to be controlling what services Barrow and Windermere, or even less Liverpool, was to get.

* Yes I know he's a Scouser.
 

Purple Orange

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It would not be politically acceptable for Greater Manchester's politicians to wholly control Lancashire or Merseyside's rail services. You can accept a bit of bleed (think Chester/Ellesmere Port/Ormskirk, or in Manchester's case Hadfield or Skem), but it wouldn't be acceptable for Manchester's metro mayor to be controlling what services Barrow and Windermere, or even less Liverpool, was to get.
They wouldn’t. It would just be the services that go to Manchester.
 

Purple Orange

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Which, referencing the Castlefield thread, is basically the North West's entire rail network barring a few little branch lines.

It could just be a franchise/concession, branded as GM Rail, whereby ticketing for journeys that start or end in Greater Manchester are integrated with other modes such as the tram/buses. Awarding of the contract to whoever runs the service might sit with the DfT still.
 

Bletchleyite

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It could just be a franchise/concession, branded as GM Rail, whereby ticketing for journeys that start or end in Greater Manchester are integrated with other modes such as the tram/buses. Awarding of the contract to whoever runs the service might sit with the DfT still.

It would not be acceptable for Liverpool suburban services or Lancashire branches to be operated by a TOC called "GM Rail", nor by one where the Manchester Metro Mayor, a person they can't vote for (or against) calls the shots.

I've got an idea for what you could call it - how about "Northern"?

There is no reason you couldn't have ticketing for intra-GM journeys controlled by TfGM with Northern operating the services, and maybe an "in partnership with [TfGM M]" on units operating services that do enter GM to reflect any extra funding TfGM pay, a bit like you had the Regional Railways GMPTE and Merseytravel livery variants.
 

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It would not be politically acceptable for Greater Manchester's politicians to wholly control Lancashire or Merseyside's rail services. You can accept a bit of bleed (think Chester/Ellesmere Port/Ormskirk, or in Manchester's case Hadfield or Skem), but it wouldn't be acceptable for Manchester's metro mayor* to be controlling what services Barrow and Windermere, or even less Liverpool, was to get.

* Yes I know he's a Scouser.
Seeing as most Northern services out of Manchester primarily act as commuter routes for the city, I can’t see this as being a major issue. I’d say that anything as far south as Stoke, west as Chester, north as Preston/Blackpool and east as Huddersfield would be acceptable under a GM rail brand.

The services which operate further afield (Barrow, Windermere, Bradford etc) could remain with Northern, or even perhaps merge them with TPE.
 

Bletchleyite

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The services which operate further afield (Barrow, Windermere, Bradford etc) could remain with Northern, or even perhaps merge them with TPE.

I'm sure the populace of Barrow would love to see 80x or Mk5 coaches rocking up, but I don't think that is the answer (and nor are single 185s, as there lies severe overcrowding). To me, the Merseyrail City Line model very much is - Northern operates it, TfGM as a co-signatory to the franchise (and Metro, and Merseytravel, and SYPTE etc), and each PTE can chuck in extra funding to improve services to/in their patch if they wish (but can't lop anything outside their patch to enhance their patch unless the local Government in control of what's being lopped agrees - for instance, TfGM can't nick a unit off Ormskirk-Preston to enhance the Rose Hill service, but could pay for the lease of an additional Class 195 to use that).
 

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In 2019 TfGM published a document "Our Prospectus for Rail", with a foreword by Andy Burnham.
Amongst other things, this described the GM Rail concept. A snippet:
GM Rail services, under local control, will ultimately need to meet the demands of today and the growth of tomorrow, while being a brand that Greater Manchester passengers can trust. The vision is to deliver local rail services that operate at a turn-up-and-go frequency of at least four trains an hour on routes that can accommodate eight carriage trains.
We recognise that there will be challenges when it comes to meeting these frequency levels, especially on a railway that is used to transport goods, as well as people. We will need to consider investment in infrastructure (such as passing loops and four-track sections), enhancing signalling (to increase line capacity and improve traffic management) and removing network pinch-points (grade separation of junctions). A high-capacity metro system will play an important role in both achieving the higher service-frequencies on the corridors that it will serve, and releasing capacity at key pinch-points on the network for improved services on lines where metro conversion is not an option. As new infrastructure is built for HS2 and NPR, we will take advantage of opportunities to make better use of existing lines to meet local demand.
Of course, all dependent on devolution and central government funding....
 

Bletchleyite

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The vision is <insert something totally undeliverable> :)

I assume Castlefield has escaped his notice? Has he got plans to fund doubling it? Best get started soon before something gets built where it would go.
 

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Manchester's Merseyrail is the tram.

It is, and that's exactly where Burnham should be focusing transport investment. Not franchising buses or setting up local rail concessions.

The point of it is to take services away from Northern.

As poor as Northern can be, I have absolutely zero confidence in Andy Burnham's proposed Greater Manchester Hornby trainset being any better.
 

Bletchleyite

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As poor as Northern can be, I have absolutely zero confidence in Andy Burnham's proposed Greater Manchester Hornby trainset being any better.

Now I've read what he's proposing, and referring to the Castlefield threads, I think the chance of him getting what he wants is somewhere between 0 and, er, 0.

He could probably fund running 8-car trains at 4tph to Hadfield and Glossop (2 to each maybe?) but he would find them fairly quiet. Higher frequencies have been tried there before and there wasn't the demand.

Meanwhile for anything that would need to go through Vic or Castlefield (which is most of it), best get tracklaying :)
 

Greybeard33

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The vision is <insert something totally undeliverable> :)

I assume Castlefield has escaped his notice? Has he got plans to fund doubling it? Best get started soon before something gets built where it would go.
Yes, well, it does go on to say:
These changes will take time to implement and, in the meantime, we need to look at the current service provision within Greater Manchester. Simpler service patterns can help reduce conflicting movements and so Greater Manchester would like to see services change so that there is a much clearer offering for the city-region and the surrounding area recognising that very few of the existing service patterns in any of the franchises serving Greater Manchester operate solely – or even mainly – within the Greater Manchester boundary.
 

507021

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He could probably fund running 8-car trains at 4tph to Hadfield and Glossop (2 to each maybe?) but he would find them fairly quiet. Higher frequencies have been tried there before and there wasn't the demand.

Meanwhile for anything that would need to go through Vic or Castlefield (which is most of it), best get tracklaying :)

What Burnham really needs to realise is that if he wants greater control over public transport, then he's the one who needs to find the money to implement and operate it.

Unless of course, he thinks the government will just give him whatever money he wants...
 

Purple Orange

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What Burnham really needs to realise is that if he wants greater control over public transport, then he's the one who needs to find the money to implement and operate it.

Unless of course, he thinks the government will just give him whatever money he wants...
That’s the point of devolution - a budget comes with it.

It would not be acceptable for Liverpool suburban services or Lancashire branches to be operated by a TOC called "GM Rail", nor by one where the Manchester Metro Mayor, a person they can't vote for (or against) calls the shots.

I've got an idea for what you could call it - how about "Northern"?

There is no reason you couldn't have ticketing for intra-GM journeys controlled by TfGM with Northern operating the services, and maybe an "in partnership with [TfGM M]" on units operating services that do enter GM to reflect any extra funding TfGM pay, a bit like you had the Regional Railways GMPTE and Merseytravel livery variants.
That wouldn’t be the case if the DfT have control over the concession, but fares related to Greater Manchester stops are integrated with other transport modes, just like you can get a London Underground ticket tagged on to a national rail ticket. Plus surely it would only be branded as GM Rail for services that go to Manchester. Liverpool-Blackpool or Blackpool-Leeds would not be a part of this.
 

Bletchleyite

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That wouldn’t be the case if the DfT have control over the concession, but fares related to Greater Manchester stops are integrated with other transport modes, just like you can get a London Underground ticket tagged on to a national rail ticket. Plus surely it would only be branded as GM Rail for services that go to Manchester. Liverpool-Blackpool or Blackpool-Leeds would not be a part of this.

What of Liverpool-Manchester? I'd prefer the approach of "Northern, in partnership with...". For stock used on Liverpool-Manchester services, you'd have both the TfGM "wavey M" and the Merseytravel "upside down W" next to it.
 

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That’s the point of devolution - a budget comes with it.

I know it does, but do you honestly think all of these pie in the sky ideas are going to be cheap?

He needs to be honest with the taxpayer about how much this is going to cost, because ultimately it'll be them paying for it through higher council tax.
 

Purple Orange

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What of Liverpool-Manchester? I'd prefer the approach of "Northern, in partnership with...". For stock used on Liverpool-Manchester services, you'd have both the TfGM "wavey M" and the Merseytravel "upside down W" next to it.

It might that Liverpool services might not be a part of it. Reading page 18 of the document @Greybeard33 posted, there is scope for a more focused Greater Manchester network. Some key phrases:

“As new infrastructure is built for HS2 and NPR, we will take advantage of opportunities to make better use of existing lines to meet local demand.”

“These changes will take time to implement and, in the meantime, we need to look at the current service provision within Greater Manchester. Simpler service patterns can help reduce conflicting movements and so Greater Manchester would like to see services change so that there is a much clearer offering for the city-region and the surrounding area recognising that very few of the existing service patterns in any of the franchises serving Greater Manchester operate solely – or even mainly – within the Greater Manchester boundary.”

“Local control and accountability for Greater Manchester to be the custodians of travel-to-work area services, working with the wider industry to deliver a step change in the services we provide – a rail network which local people can trust.”

“Move towards services operating at a turn-up-and-go frequency of at least four trains an hour on routes that can accommodate eight carriage trains.”

If focusing on the Travel To Work Area, that presents a different situation all together - Liverpool wouldn’t be a part of it. The prospectus states at least 4 tph at 8-car trains, which is modelled on Merseyrail. That could mean something similar 8-car 777s rather than 8-car 331s. An 8-car 777 is the equivalent of 5 and half 331 cars or 6 and half 319 cars. It would involve some routes that go outside of Greater Manchester (probably stations like Alderley Edgr or Buxton, but within the TTWA). The Styal line might be ripe for this type of service too, but it could start off with:
  • 4 tph Airport - Stalybridge
  • 4 tph Airport - Warrington
  • 4 tph Piccadilly - Cheadle Hulme (2 Stoke & 2 Crewe)
  • 4 tph Piccadilly - Hazel Grove (2 Buxton)
  • 4 tph Blackburn - Rochdale
That would leave room for the longer distance services to operate too. Bolton would obviously see a higher frequency. There might just be 1 semi-fast Liverpool-Sheffield on the CLC. Scotland services could still flow through to the Airport. Fast Leeds & Newcastle to the airport would need to terminate at Piccadilly until they can utilise the HS2 tunnel.

I know it does, but do you honestly think all of these pie in the sky ideas are going to be cheap?

He needs to be honest with the taxpayer about how much this is going to cost, because ultimately it'll be them paying for it through higher council tax.
Well of course it needs to be costed and a business case put forward. We can level the same claims about any infrastructure project at all. How has Metrolink expanded? How will HS2 and NPR be financed? How is the current Hope Valley schemes and TRU being funded? It’s going to involve Westminster like all other mainline rail projects.
 

JonathanH

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There is no reason you couldn't have ticketing for intra-GM journeys controlled by TfGM with Northern operating the services, and maybe an "in partnership with [TfGM M]" on units operating services that do enter GM to reflect any extra funding TfGM pay, a bit like you had the Regional Railways GMPTE and Merseytravel livery variants.
It has to be said that when they finally managed to get all the Northern units in one colour scheme, there was a better impression of the railways in the North of England. Putting them back in loads of different colour schemes probably isn't the answer unless it really is possible to employ better allocation of units to routes.
 
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