GREATER Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has welcomed proposals for a "once-in-a-generation" revamp of the country’s railway system, writes Local Democracy Reporter Nick Statham.

The Railway Development Group  (RDG) – which represents the firms that run Britain’s trains – has called for a major overhaul of the industry in its response to the government’s Williams Review.

It is proposing a "radical alternative"  to the current "one-size-fits-all" franchising system that would "better join up the railway, improve accountability and result in easier, better value fares for passengers".

The group is also calling for a new independent body to be put  in charge of the whole industry to act as "the glue that binds it together".

It says the plan would open the door for Transport for London-style concessions in more cities across the country, as well as better competition and choice on long-distance routes.

On other routes train companies would face "tough targets",  as well as incentives,  to  encourage innovation and ensure customer needs are met.

Mr Burnham – who warned operators Northern and Transpennine Express with being stripped of their franchises earlier this year – has indicated his support for the proposals.

He said: “The time has come for radical change in the way transport is organised in city-regions like Greater Manchester.  People here deserve a London-style system which makes public transport more convenient and affordable.

“We urgently need the ability to link train services to Metrolink and buses.  That’s why I welcome The Rail Delivery Group’s proposals that would see more powers over our railways devolved to local areas.

“In Greater Manchester, passengers have suffered for far too long – crammed on to clapped out trains that are too often delayed or cancelled.  The case for greater local control is clear. I want to see real steps taken towards our commuter services being run locally as ‘Greater Manchester Rail’.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, says the proposals "call time on short term fixes", while setting out a "once-in-a-generation" upgrade to the railway system.

He said: “We want to move forward with a rail system that is more focused on customers, more responsive to local communities and more accountable, letting rail companies deliver what people want in each area of the country and rebuilding trust between the industry and passengers.”

Over the summer the RDG  will continue to consult with passenger and business groups, as well as local and regional bodies,  on how the benefits of the proposals could be "maximised".