Northern rail to be brought under government control

The UK Government said on Wednesday it would nationalise Northern rail, bringing it under Government control, as the company running trains between northern cities including Manchester and Leeds was blamed for years of mayhem, delays and cancellations.

UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps said that a public-sector operator would take over the running of Northern from March 1, ending a contract with Arriva, owned by Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, five years early.

A nine-year franchise to operate the Northern line was awarded to Arriva Rail North, a subsidiary of German state-owned operator Deutsche Bahn, in 2016.

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.”

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 …

“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 …

“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.”