Shapps sets deadline for Northern rail decision

The Northern rail franchise will only be able to continue for “a number of months”, transport secretary Grant Shapps said, and a decision on its future will be taken by the end of January.

Shapps said in a parliamentary statement to the House of Commons on Thursday: “Passengers in the North have had to put up with unacceptable services for too long. We understand how frustrating this has been for people and we are taking action to make sure that performance improves. I intend to announce my decision before the end of January 2020.”

Shapps had told BBC Breakfast that the process had begun to strip Northern of its rail franchise to German-owned Arriva following years of poor performance.

He is now considering whether to award a short-term management contract to Arriva to continue running the service, or to nationalise the franchise as a last resort.

The decision to award a short-term contract to Arriva would be a contentious one, according to Transport for the North’s strategic rail director, David Hoggarth.

He said: “The North’s leaders have said that a direct award to Northern, even on a short-term contract basis, is likely to be seen by rail users as a reward for failure.

“We’ve been clear that putting an ‘operator of last resort’ [to nationalise the service] in place of Northern would be the only way to rebuild trust and confidence, and secure the right outcome for passengers.”

Shapps’ announcement means that passengers “can get the chance of a fresh start”, he added. “We welcome the clear timeline for a decision to be made by the end of January.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, also supported Shapps’s statement, saying he was “pleased” with the government’s decision to strip Northern of their franchise but said that it would be “unacceptable” to award it a new short-term contract.

Burnham said: “Leaders across the North stand ready to work with Government to develop a solution that delivers for passengers.  How can it be right to reward an operator that has singularly failed to deliver an acceptable train service?

“Finally we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I urge the Transport Secretary to do the right thing for the travelling public in the North when he makes his decision at the end of the month.”

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“Passengers in the North have had to put up with unacceptable services for too long.”

If only some sort of government had been in a position to do something about it sooner.

By the light of the moon

Make it schnappy

By Miller

Network rail instructed engineers to work up detailed designs including structural plans for Piccadilly 15/16 and modifications Oxford Road. This work was being done about 4-5 years ago and Network Rail suddenly pulled the plug. Until this is done, everything between Liverpool, Nottingham, Lockerbie, Middlesborough, Crewe and Scarborough will be screwed.

By Build Platforms 15 and 16

Not enough track capacity is the issue here. So when’s the money coming to sort that out? Changing Northern/TPE will only sort out the Sunday unofficial drivers sickness strikes. Full electrification to York, an underground line and expansion of the Oxford Road/Piccadilly corridor plus more platforms at Victoria is the only thing that’ll actually help. Anything else is just more government/DfT lies and spin…

By Dr B

The Northern rail infrastructure is a total and utter embarrassment to our nation. Having visited Norway, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, France, Japan and many other countries, it pales in comparison to any of them. Even in Italy where much of their train stock is ailing, it still turns up on time and is cheap to use.

Working in a senior role for an organisation that prioritises rail travel in preference to car travel, I have spent much of the last few years having to call ahead to delay/reschedule or cancel important meetings. It is a totally untenable state of affairs and I am reminded on my frequent trips down to London how this wouldn’t be tolerated for a moment. The spend per head for London versus the North of England is disgusting; to think of the notion that we have any sort of ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is just plain fallacy.


TM is spot on. I feel ashamed to be British when I go to other countries. Austria as a non stop fast train from Vienna airport straight to the centre which takes 20 minutes and fantastic interlinked trams, undergrounds and mainline trains. If the people of the North of England were a minority, Westminster would be in front of a judge for discrimination. Boris Johnson was boasting about building a fast train between Leeds and Manchester. Fine! Where does that leave Sheffield? Liverpool? Hull? Newcastle? Carlisle? I went to Edinburgh last year and it took me over three hours from Manchester.From Lockerbie to Edinburgh I could have walked quicker. Why are these people so utterly useless at running a decent service? Trains have to be in public ownership so every taxpayer wherever you live gets an equivalent service. It is totally unacceptable the levels of investment in the South East compared to the rest of the country.

By Elephant

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