Fares, rail policy and DfT news

16.10.19

Northern Rail could be renationalised, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps

The government is considering renationalising Northern Rail due to repeated poor performance.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said he has issued a “request for proposals” from the train operator and the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), which could see Northern stripped of private ownership and services brought under government control.

Giving evidence to the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, Shapps said the level of performance and number of late-arriving trains “cannot continue.”

He told MPs: “As a fellow long-suffering commuter, I entirely believe we cannot carry on just thinking it is OK for trains not to arrive, or Sunday services not to be in place. That has to change.”

The move could see the OLR, an arm of government responsible for replacing failing rail companies, taking over Northern, and DfT has said it is developing contingency plans for the replacement of the current franchise.

Northern Rail, owned by Arriva, is one of the biggest operators in the country but has struggled with performance and punctuality in recent months, with new timetable chaos, controversy over the 40-year-old Pacer trains and strike action all attracting negative press.

Earlier this year, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool mayor Steve Rotherham called for the government to “strip Northern Rail of its franchise” one year on from the timetable meltdown.

The Williams Review is also currently underway and will report back shortly, with the recommendations expected to lead to widespread changes to the current franchising model.

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