Rail services operated by Northern set to be nationalised

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Rail services operated by Northern are set to be nationalised, the government has announced, following punctuality and reliability issues.

Rail services on routes operated by Northern - formerly known as Northern Rail - will be brought under public control from March 1.

In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he wanted "real and tangible" improvements for passengers on Northern's routes.

He described nationalisation as a "new beginning for Northern" and said that would be ushered in by "the public-sector operator - the so-called Operator of Last Resort".

"It already owns and oversee another franchise, East Coast, which it brands as London North Eastern Railway. Passenger satisfaction has risen in the nineteen months it has been operating the service," he said.

At the start of the year Mr Shapps said he would be "taking action" after describing the service as "unacceptable" and "appalling".

The move follows years of chaos, cancellations, complaints and disruption on Northern Rail trains.

For example, the introduction of new timetables in May 2018 saw up to 310 Northern trains a day cancelled, and punctuality and reliability problems continue to blight the network.

A document seen by ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton suggests the new, government-run service will be known as "Northern Trains".

Mr Shapps said the move would "inevitably raise questions about the future of rail privatisation" and acknowledged the "current model is now struggling to deliver".

"We know change is needed, and it is coming. The Williams Review is looking at reforms across the railway to ensure customers are at the heart of the system," he added.

Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva's UK Trains division, said "largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable".

The problems faced by the firm included delayed and cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged industrial action.

Mr Burchell claimed the company had "helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network", but added: "A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government's decision today."

  • What will happen next for Northern?

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".

Labour's Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, tweeted: "About time. Delays & cancellations under Northern Rail have been getting worse and worse and worse.

"But Govt also needs a proper plan to invest in our northern railways, trains and stations so we get a fair deal."

It comes after Network Rail was put under investigation for its poor service on routes operated by Northern and TransPennine Express.The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said it had put the government-owned company "on a warning" for routes in the North West and Central region of England.

Performance deteriorated in 2018 and “failed to substantially recover during 2019”, according to the regulator.