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End of the line for Northern - rail service brought under public control

Northern Rail Credit: PA

Rail services on routes operated by Northern are to be brought under public control.

The Department for Transport is putting the Government-controlled Operator of Last Resort in charge of running services.

The chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018 saw hundreds of Northern trains a day cancelled.

Punctuality and reliability problems continue to blight the network.

German-based Arriva was due to run Northern until March 2025.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced routes operated by Northern are to be brought under public control. Credit: PA

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

He said:

I am announcing today that from 1 March the Northern Rail franchise will be taken into public ownership and the Government will begin operating services through the public-sector operator - the so-called operator of last resort.

"The public-sector operator is a company entirely owned by my department and run by experienced railway managers.

"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.

"This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning. Northern's network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right.

"Nonetheless, I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible."

Today's announcement will inevitably raise questions about the future of rail privatisation. Over the past twenty years privatisation has reversed over two decades of declining passenger numbers and passenger journeys have almost doubled to nearly 2 billion.

"However, it is clear that the current model is now struggling to deliver. Across the country a number of franchises are failing to provide the reliable services that passengers require.

"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.

– ransport Secretary Grant Shapps

Northern's owner, German-based firm Arriva, said passengers, employees and suppliers could expect operations to continue during the transfer period to public ownership.

Chris Burchell, Arriva MD UK Trains, said external factors had made the company's plan for the network "undeliverable".

"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," he said.

"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."

– Chris Burchell, Arriva MD UK Trains