Decision on future of Northern Rail to be made at 'end of the month'

The Transport Secretary has said that a decision on the short-term future of Northern Rail will be made by the end of the month.

In a statement, Mr Shapps said that the Northern Rail franchise will only be able to continue "for a number of months" according to most recent financial information.

He also said that the long-term future of the franchise will be decided after the Williams Rail Review - a government review into the whole rail industry.

Mr Shapps launched a review into Northern Rail last month. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced he is evaluating a proposal from the train operator on options for continuing its franchise.

"Following completion of this process I will consider whether to award ARN (Arriva Rail North) a short-term management contract or whether to ask the Department of Transport's own operator of last resort to step in and deliver passenger services," he said.

Mr Shapps added that the decision on which short-term option will be used for Northern Rail will be made in accordance with the following principals:

  • Protecting the interests of passengers.

  • Ensuring business and service continuity.

  • Preserving the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money.

  • The continued quality of the franchise proposition.

Credit: PA

Chris Burchell, Arriva's managing director of UK Trains, said: "We accept services on the Northern network are not yet good enough and we sincerely apologise to our customers for our role in that.

"Many of the issues affecting the franchise, however, are outside the direct control of Northern.

"Assumptions were given when the plan for the franchise was developed that critical infrastructure projects would be delivered to enable growth and support capacity demands.

"Many of these have either been delayed or cancelled. This, along with unprecedented levels of strike action, has had a significant impact on the franchise - both in terms of service and financial performance.

"These challenges will continue to affect services irrespective of who is running them.

"What is needed is a new plan and, in that analysis, we are fully in agreement with the Government.

"That is why the Government asked us to prepare a business plan for a shorter 'Direct Award'."

The Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City region said that it was "concerning" that the government are only taking action because of financial reasons.

Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: "For months if not years we have been calling on the government to get a grip of the chaos on the railways of the North.

"We are pleased they have listened and today confirmed that Northern will be stripped of their franchise. Leaders across the North stand ready to work with Government to develop a solution that delivers for passengers.

"However, the Transport Secretary is still leaving open the possibility of Northern being given a new, short-term contract.

"How can it be right to reward an operator which has singularly failed to deliver an acceptable train service?

"This would be completely unacceptable."

Credit: PA

Responding to the Transport Secretary's statement, Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director, Henri Murison said: "While there has been a great public clamour for stripping Northern of their franchise, and a belated recognition that TransPennine Express are just as bad, the crying shame is that whoever operates the railways in the North will struggle to run good and reliable services because of the major infrastructure issues in and out of some of our major cities."

She added: "While the forthcoming Williams review will rightly address issues with the franchising process in the North, government should urgently act to undertake the engineering works needed to allow operators to run services more effectively, including a number that could be started immediately.

"Otherwise we risk a situation where the North faces years more misery on its rail network – regardless of who runs the trains."

At Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Boris Johnson said that "contingency plans" were being put in place for a replacement for Northern Rail.

The Prime Minister made the comments when responding to a question by Labour's Yvonne Fovargue, who is the MP for Makerfield.

Boris Johnson fielded a question about Northern Rail at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. Credit: House of Commons

Downing Street said the situation faced by Northern passengers was "unacceptable".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We understand how frustrating continued poor performance on Northern has been for passengers who have had to put up with unacceptable service for too long."

However, Transport Unions rejected the government's statement.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "This non-statement from the Government is a complete betrayal of long-suffering Northern Rail passengers.

"Instead of a 'short-term option' to be announced later in the month, the Government should do the right thing now and immediately bring Northern Rail into public ownership.

"It's blindingly obvious to anyone with an understanding of the extent of the failure of Northern Rail that the positive proven record of public ownership is what is required and what passengers and staff deserve."