Northern Train
Northern passengers have suffered repeated delays and cancellations

Region backs Northern rail decision

Sarah Townsend

Leaders and businesses applauded the Government’s decision to renationalise the beleaguered Northern rail franchise, saying it has fallen short of delivering an acceptable service to passengers for years.

However, they called for the decision to be supported by increased funding of rail and related infrastructure in the North following decades of under investment.

In a joint statement, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, and Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said: “[The] news is a victory for passengers who have had to endure almost two years of misery and mayhem on Northern Rail.

“But it is only the start of fixing the North’s railways. The Government must now commit to investing in much needed rail infrastructure, and work with leaders across the North to deliver the vision and funding needed to build the modern transport network that the people of our region deserve.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Wednesday that Northern would be stripped of its franchise to German-owned Arriva from 1 March, when the Government will take over the running of services.

Northern’s network runs between Liverpool, Manchester, Stoke, Leeds, Newcastle and Hull, carrying an estimated 101 million passengers per year on 2,500 daily services.

Arriva, part of German state-owned railway company Deutsche Bahn, has operated the network since 2016.

However, its plans to expand and modernise services, including bringing new trains into operation, have largely failed to materialise with passengers facing repeated delays and cancellations instead.

Shapps said at the beginning of this month that Northern faced being stripped of the franchise due to poor performance. He said it was no longer financially sustainable and would only be able to continue for a small number of months. On Wednesday, the decision was made to place the franchise into the hands of the Department of Transport as the ‘operator of last resort’.

“This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning,” Shapps said in a statement to media.

“Northern’s network is huge and complex and some of the things that are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right. But I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible.”

The decision also marks the “first small step” towards the North taking back control of its railways, Shapps added. “Railways were invented in the North. There will be no more leaving behind.”

Barry White, chief executive of lobby group Transport for the North, described the news as “the chance for a fresh start”, but called for greater investment in rail infrastructure. Among the initiatives that Transport for the North is involved in are Northern Powerhouse Rail, TransPennine Upgrade and HS2.

“This a significant moment,” White said. “It brings with it the chance of greater involvement in the way we deliver connectivity across the region and as we adopt recommendations from both the Blake Jones and forthcoming Williams reviews.

“However, essential infrastructure is needed to reach the levels of performance and reliability we need, and we now need to see early commitment and accelerated delivery from Government.

“The DfT has said it recognises the importance of planning for future growth and enhancements. We want to work in partnership with the operator on the development and delivery of our long-term vision.”

David Mathias, a planning and environment partner at law firm Shoosmiths in Manchester, said: “While today’s announcement might result in more disruption in the short term, it is welcomed as Northern has been a consistently poor performer.

“However if the Government is truly committed to ‘levelling—up’ transport infrastructure in the North it will need to do more than axe one of its failing train service operators. Very significant investment into the physical rail infrastructure network in the North is necessary to increase capacity and reliability for regional commuters.

“The Government has been noticeably quiet on Northern Powerhouse rail recently, with HS2 taking a lot of the headlines, but this needs to be put front and centre of the agenda if we want to deliver substantial improvements to interconnectivity between Northern cities.”

Your Comments

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without additional funding i don’t see how this makes a difference

By NotSteve

It certainly can’t leave out important railway stations that are really needed. Skelmersdale definitely.

By Paul Burke

Agree with Not Steve. How is nationalising this going to make any difference to the dire infrastructure? There was a clip from people using the service from the outskirts of Sheffield on the BBC today and they were crammed into two carriages like cattle to get to work. If you managed to get on you were lucky, most had to wait half an hour for the next train and some for the one after that. That is how people in the North are treated they get trains with two carriages every half an hour serving cities the size of Sheffield. Are we going to suddenly see the type of trains they get linking the Home Counties with London starting tomorrow? We know the answer to that don’t we. If nationalisation is so much better, you have to ask why they were privatised in the first place? The betrayal will take decades for Westminster to fix.

By Elephant

Without the major infrastructure work required on Deansgate corridor being carried out nothing will change. If trains in and out of Manchester are to improve, we need platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly to be built and the rebuilding of Oxford Road train station to be carried out urgently.

By John

So Corbyn was right!

By Anonymous

Massive infrastructure investment across the North is needed before any real improvement will be realised.

By Monty

Thank you for showing a picture of a real Northern train instead of the sleek and shiny new ones that national media use when reporting on Northern’s problems. It’s not only the late running and cancellations but the poor state of the trains that we’ve had to contend with – although this does look to be one of the better ones.

By MP3

Northern are terrible but without upgrades between Castlefield and Piccadilly little will change for passengers

By Disgruntled Goat

We need to strengthen cooperation across the north and develop the structures that will enable us to take control of these lines ourselves. At the same time we need North of England control over a budget that will enable us to deliver the critical infrastructure investments including HS3.

By Liverpolitan

TfN isn’t (just) a lobby group – it has statutory powers delegated to it from central government through a statutory instrument under the the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

By the light of the moon

Northern never had enough Carriages at peak times and condition of Rolling Stock was third world. Hope this improves things but, won’t hold my breath !

By Tha'Knows

Northern rail or any other operator will not make a difference, why buy new diesel trains when electrifying the whole network has been promised (not Northern’s fault) yet its still not happened. Not enough carriages, again not Northern’s fault, platform extensions promised to so longer trains can stop. You have to go with the shortest platform on that route otherwise people can’t get on or off, still waiting on the platform works… This is Grant Shapps and Andy Burnham thinking they are helping but its a massive con it wont make the slightest bit of difference. want someone to blame, blame the people that are taking over 1st March. But hey when they fail they will say give them chance they have only just started… If the infrastructure isn’t there its not possible to provide the service… And no i don’t work for northern i just have common sense and have listened to both sides…This is why i have a car…

By Rob H

Network Rail – a publicly owned body is the root cause of the lack on investment in rail infrastructure in the north. Stripping a franchise of its power will do nothing till the government invest heavily. The region needs the same amount as London and the South East receive if not more, but we all know that will never materialise as long as Westminster is in control of what happens here.

By New Wave

I understand and agree with the view of Rob H over Northern Rail, and the sentiment of New Wave over Network Rail; but whilst taking Northern back into quasi public ownership, it’s not renationalisation as suggested in the article, nothing will change. However surely the lack of investment (and any plan) rests with the Government and its lack of investment outside of the south east? Give it 20 years and we will be up to the level the south east was in the 1970s.

By Billy

Is that a steam train pictured?

By Percy Thomas