Trains services to continue as Northern franchise is taken over by the Government

Rail company Northern has said that train services will continue as normal while its services are re-nationalised.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 2:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 5:47 pm

Officials from Arriva Rail North were speaking after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that its franchise, which began in 2016 and was due to run until 2025 will be transferred to the Operator of Last Resort.

Northern's franchise will transfer from Arriva Rail North to Northern Trains Limited a subsidiary of the Department for Transport's OLR Holdings Limited.

The franchise hit major problems in 2018 when the over-run of the electrification and signalling upgrades in the North West, carried out by Network Rail, led to chaos when the annual May timetable changes were introduced. Shortages of drivers and delays in getting new trains from Spain have seen problems continuing.

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Arriva Rail North has apologised to the public after the Northern franchise was taken over by the Government

Northern bosses said that the company had begun with high hopes and a plan to bring in £500m worth of new electric and diesel trains and expanded services across the North of England, but "largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable".

Chris Burchell, Arriva MD UK Trains said employees and suppliers can expect operations to continue during the transfer period.

He said: "We had a clear vision for the Northern franchise that would better connect the cities of the North with more frequent, reliable and modern services and unlock economic growth.

"The scale of the challenges we faced outside of our direct control were unprecedented, particularly around delayed or cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged strike action. Despite the challenges, the team has introduced brand new trains onto the network for the first time in a generation.

One of the many announcements made to passengers when the timetable crisis in 2018 led to hundreds of cancellations of Northern services

"They have introduced more than 2,000 extra services per week, refurbished trains and stations, and created hundreds of new customer-facing jobs as part of a £600m investment programme for the North.

"We recognise however that overall service improvements have not come quickly enough, and passengers deserve better. For that, we wholeheartedly apologise.

"A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government’s decision today.

"We now stand ready to support Government and the Operator of Last Resort to ensure a smooth transfer for our passengers and colleagues alike."

Grant Shapps in his statement said the Government recognised that the rail network in the North had fallen far short of delivering the service passengers need and deserve.

He said: "The railways were invented in the North. Last year the Prime Minister promised that we would give the railway back to the places it was born, giving more power over services, fares, and stations to local leaders.

“Today marks the first small step towards the North taking back control of its railways and its people taking back control of their travelling lives.

“There will be no more leaving behind. This Government is committed to levelling-up.”