TRANSPORT Grant Shapps has decided to terminate Arriva’s Northern franchise. The operation will be transferred to the DfT’s Operator of Last Resort on 1 March.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning.
‘Northern’s network is huge and complex and some of the things which 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 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.
‘We know overcrowding is a problem. To ensure we are deploying the trains in the right place to meet demand, we will be trialing new technology to identify crowding pinch points. We will also be extending platforms at 30 stations on the Northern network to allow for longer trains.
‘We will also be making sure that every journey is made on a train fit for passengers: all Northern’s trains will be deep-cleaned and we will review the cleaning pattern to make sure the first and last passengers travel on trains in the same condition.
‘Over many months we have seen completely unacceptable numbers of cancellations on Sundays, affecting town centres, businesses, families and community groups. We understand this and I have therefore asked the public-sector operator to prioritise building on the recent agreement with ASLEF to improve the reliability of Sunday services and significantly reduce the number of cancellations.
‘Beyond this, I have asked Robin Gisby and Richard George, who lead the public-sector operator, to prepare a plan in their first 100 days, to make sure we leave no stone unturned in improving this franchise for passengers.’
‘There will be no more leaving behind. This Government is committed to levelling-up.’
Arriva UK managing director Chris Burchell 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. It was clear however that, largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable. A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government’s decision today.’
Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer has called for the delayed Williams Review to be published without further delay: ‘Passengers in the north deserve better than the service they have received from the different parts of the railway. Plans to deliver real improvements were hamstrung by a flawed industry structure, with different parts working to different targets and no one body clearly in charge and accountable to passengers,’ he said.
He continued: ‘The industry’s proposals to the forthcoming government review into rail set out a radical alternative to the status quo. This review must be published urgently.’
The decision has been welcomed by rail unions.
BREAKING STORY: more follows