The most recent financial information on Northern confirms the franchise will only be able to continue for a number of months, the Transport Secretary has said.
In a written statement to parliament, Grant Shapps said this information means a previous proposal to Arriva Rail North (ARN) is being evaluated.
Northern has been besieged with delays and cancellations, starting way back in May 2018 with the catastrophic introduction of a new timetable.
It led to an Office of Rail and Road (ORR) investigation, which found that passengers were not prioritised when plans were put in place to implement the timetable.
But little seems to have improved, and in October 2019, Mr Shapps issued a request for a proposal to the current Northern franchisee, ARN, and to the Operator of Last Resort, as the first phase of securing options for continuation of services on the franchise.
However, performance has not improved and in light of the worrying financial information, the evaluation of ARN will determine whether or not it is offered a short-term management contract, or whether the Operator of Last Resort step in to deliver services.
The Mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region have both called for Northern to lose the franchise, following a series of failings; the latest news is unlikely to have changed this perspective.
Mr Shapps said that the financial position of Northern won’t affect day-to-day running of services, but that long-term decisions will be made in light of the recommendations made through the Williams Rail Review.
In the short term, the Transport Secretary said the choice made will depend on “key principles” of protecting the interests of passengers; ensuring business and service continuity; preserving interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money; and the continued quality of the franchise proposition.
A decision will be made before the end of January.