Rail services on routes operated by Northern Rail are to be brought under government control, the Transport Secretary has announced.
Grant Shapps said he wants passengers to see “real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible”.
The Transport Secretary previously announced that Northern Rail would have its contract ripped out, saying passengers will “not have to wait long” before action is taken due to services being “really bad”.
Office of Rail and Road figures revealed just 56% of Northern trains arrived at stations within one minute of the timetable in the 12 months to December 7, compared with the average across Britain of 65%.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA transport union, welcomed the decision but claimed it is time the Government understood that “franchising of our railways, while stuffing the mouths of shareholders with gold, has completely failed”.
The Government-controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR) will take over the Northern Rail franchise on March 1.
Northern passengers have faced rail chaos ever since new timetables were introduced in May 2018.
The revised schedules caused hundreds of trains a day to be cancelled, and punctuality and reliability problems have continued to blight the network. Punctuality and reliability problems continue to blight the network.
German-based Arriva was due to run Northern until March 2025.
The OLR already runs services on the East Coast Main Line under the LNER brand, following the failure of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise.
In response to the announcement that Arriva’s Northern franchise will be transferred to the OLR, Chris Burchell, Arriva MD UK Trains 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.
“I would like to recognise the hard work of the 6,000 strong team at Northern who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to deliver improvements to local rail services in the North, at times under extremely difficult conditions.
“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. 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 £600 million 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. We now stand ready to support Government and the Operator of Last Resort to ensure a smooth transfer for our passengers and colleagues alike.
“I am confident that as a result of the determination and hard work of the Northern rail team, they have helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network.”
Swiss manufacturer Stadler has beaten rivals CAF and Hitachi to secure a £362m contract to build a fleet of 42 new trains for the Tyne & Wear Metro. The Department for Transport will be providing £337m in funding for the trains.
Unveiling the new designs, Nexus, which operates the metro system said some 3,000 passengers had provided views and ideas on how the new trains could meet their needs.
Each of the 42 trains will be five carriages long and capable of carrying 600 passengers many of whom expressed a strong desire for linear ‘London Tube’ style seating along with modern features like USB charging, bike storage and retractable door steps. Click here for the full story.
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