NorthernTransportSummit2019 489

Andy Burnham & Steve Rotheram

Mayors call for termination of Northern franchise

The Mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region have called on the Transport Secretary to terminate Northern’s rail franchise as soon as possible, 12 months on from last May’s chaotic timetable change.

A joint statement from Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Liverpool’s Steve Rotheram highlighted that over the past 12 months 18.5% of Northern services arrived late and 4% were cancelled or significantly late. They said they believed “Northern has consistently failed to show they are able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver their legally-binding franchise requirements.”

The Mayors are urging the Department of Transport to implement an Operator of Last Resort, and bring in a new board and team of directors to run the company as soon possible. They have also called for a commitment from the Government to provide resources to ensure all existing franchise commitments are delivered, including the introduction of new rolling stock, if an Operator of Last Resort was appointed.

An increase in shortformed services, failure to resolve the RMT industrial dispute, cancelled Sunday services, and a failure to replace Pacer trains were all highlighted by the Mayors as reasons for stripping Northern of its franchise.

In response, David Brown, managing director at Northern, said: “We agree the North deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers.

“The unacceptable disruption following the May 2018 timetable change was caused by delays in infrastructure projects out of our control. We have apologised to our customers for the pain this caused. We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services.

“Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for customers – including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.

“These improvements are still a work in progress – but we are making things better for our customers. We want and expect things to continue to improve.”

Burnham said: “We have been extremely patient with Northern but enough is enough. They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened. Train services across Greater Manchester and the North West remain unreliable and over-crowded. Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.

“The people of Greater Manchester deserve much better than this. That’s why, together with the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, I am calling on the Transport Secretary to strip Arriva Rail North of this franchise and stabilise the franchise under the control of the Government. It is only through taking this action that we can restore the trust of the public and deliver a rail network that finally works for its passengers.”

Rotheram, said: “Given Northern’s consistent failure to provide an acceptable service we believe it is now time for Chris Grayling to terminate their franchise and move to that operator of last resort, as soon as possible.

“Stripping Northern of their franchise will not solve all of the issues with our railways – the problems go far beyond just them – but it would be an important signal that the North is no longer prepared to put up with a second class service and a first step towards building the rail network that passengers deserve.”

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What do they expect to gain by stripping the contract from Northern? It will then be given to another company / organisation, who will in turn need to employ all the former British Rail staff (who are responsible for any errors) employed by Northern to run the services.

Where I live, the services have actually improved under the new timetable, and I now get twice as many trains stopping at my local station.

Instead of using private companies as scapegoats, a change to the very structure of how the railway network is run is needed.


Can they also call on train operators to include more space for mobility aids and multi-modal, joined up approaches to travel? See Denmark/Sweden for intelligent use of space: provision of a largely empty carriage that’s ideal for wheelchair, buggy or cycle storage – with fold-down seats along the sides. Which doubles as additional standing room for popular journey times/routes that are struggling to accommodate demand.

By IanP

It’s always such a pleasure turning up late for work late, coated in bacteria from the toxic Northern seating. It’s beyond laughable that the British public are expected to endure such an outmoded rail infrastructure.

By Anon

A politically motivated move towards renationalisation within days of new timetables being introduced without assessing their impact. Cancellations on Sundays due to lack of staff due to outmoded union agreement whereby working Sundays is voluntary.. Original cause of all the disruption was Network Rail failing to update infrastructure on time. Network Rail is a nationalised company. Beware of what you wish for.

By Traveller

I would hope that everything they do is politically motivated, given their positions. As politicians.

It is a political position that the railways should be run to properly service the needs of the cities’ passengers, rather than that priority playing second fiddle.

While Sunday working may be outside the compulsory on some contracts, Saturday isn’t, so reason for cancellations there please? Nor are the days of Monday to Friday on those occasions, for example, where the car lapped out train on the Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington line is run as a 2 carriage train, during rush hour.

And I don’t believe there are any “outmoded agreements” preventing the use of vacuum cleaners, buckets, disinfectant and mops.

Perhaps this last one is subjective, but I also don’t believe anyone compelled them to have such awful taste in interior colour schemes, or to replace perfectly clean and comfy ex-Thameslink seating with easily stained discomfort givers which appear to have been designed solely to manage peoples’ expectations.

Apart from all that, they’re doing great.

By Mike

The blame lays squarely with DfT for letting franchises without finding out if it was compatible with the delivery programme for the infrastructure improvements and Northern for failing to provide enough resources both, management and personnel, to mitigate the risk of things going wrong at a time of wholesale change.

By Escape Goat

“We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services”
What nonsense.
There is now a 75 minute gap between my two potential homeward bound trains as Northern have removed a service, and in the morning I have a choice of being over an hour early for work (assuming the early train arrives) or 5-15 minutes late as the later train never runs on time! Again due to the cancellation of a sensibly timed train.
This, coupled with the fact that the line is served by decrepit pacer trains, is David Brown’s idea of “making things better for our customers”!!!
Worst train service I have ever used.

By The Fat Controller

Their trains and stations are grubby and worn out. Don’t need timetables or union agreements to maintain decent quality environments. There is something grubby about Northern.

By Anonymous

Any organization devoted to wealth extraction rather than public service will perform sub-optimally no matter how many regulations and regulators are trained and hired to supervize it. This applies especially if that organization has control over what economists call a “natural monopoly”: which is why rail, canals, gas, electricity, water were taken out of the for-profit sector in the first place and turned into democractically-supervized organizations: unfortunately unified monoliths controlled by Home County self-serving bureacrats in London. Take back control!

By James Yates

The southern MPs are not listening,…sorry..they are noy bothered about what happens above Watford. Makes me think what YOUR MP is being paid by someone to be silent……for the North!!!!

By Anonymous

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