Mayor Burnham calls for creation of 'GM Rail'
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for the creation of ‘GM Rail’ to oversee key commuter services in the region.
The politician believes the area can become the UK’s leading digital and tech city region but says the transport system needed to improve.
Burnham, who was speaking on Thursday at Slater Heelis' ‘In Conversation With’ series at HOME, in Manchester, singled out the broken rail network as needing direct action.
“Rail has been a disaster over the last year,” he said. “It’s a dysfunctional system. I want GM Rail. Let me put my cards on the table.
“There’s a review of franchising going on at the moment. I’m going to make an argument that the GM rail services, the commuter services, should be taken out of Northern franchise and run effectively by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) so we can integrate that with Metrolink and make this system work as a single commuter system.
“That’s the argument I’m going to be putting forward. It’s a long-term plan that gets us to a London-style system.”
Listen to Burnham on the latest edition of our 'Demystifying Tech' podcast below
Northern Rail has been heavily criticised over the number of train cancellations, delays and the age of some of the carriages.
Last year frustrated commuter Nicholas Mitchell used his skills as a software engineer to create a 'Northern Fail' app after he was blocked on Twitter by Northern Rail for complaining about the service.
The app collected data to show the problem of cancelled trains all in one place and was downloaded thousands of times, mentioned in Parliament and cited by countless MPs and politicians.
Burnham also highlighted the Manchester’s technology sector as being ‘fundamental’ to its future growth.
“It's an important sector in itself but it cuts across everything else,” he told BusinessCloud editor and host Chris Maguire.
“Manufacturing needs to become digital if it's to become world-leading. Health innovation needs to embrace the latest technology.
“Every sector is going to become fully digital. It's why I've always said we want to be the UK's leading digital city region because, if we are, we are also the country's leading industrial city region."
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The Mayor said Greater Manchester's tech sector was in 'second place' only to London.
"Cyber, HealthTech, FinTech are all emerging sectors that have real potential,” he said. “If you look at creative digital, on headcount, we are in a clear second place with the next nearest city some distance behind us.
“We're in a strong place but I think we can go ever higher. I believe it is possible to become the UK’s leading digital and tech city region.”
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Burnham recently welcomed senior leaders from a number of India’s most innovative tech companies to Manchester to encourage them to set up business operations in the city.
The visit was organised by Greater Manchester’s inward investment agency MIDAS, to bring the a several winners of Deloitte India’s Technology Fast 50 (DF50) competition, which recognises the country’s fastest growing and most dynamic tech firms, to the city region.
Indian technology SMEs Arcon Technologies, Serosoft Solutions and Videonetics Technology made up the delegation.
Burnham said: "Credit to MIDAS and the Growth Company, who are doing a lot work to identify these tech businesses in the economic powerhouses of the future in countries like India and China and giving them incentives to come here and develop a relationship with us. It's good for both sides and cements the fact we're not just a national centre, we have international reach.”