The Northern Rail franchise will be taken into public ownership in March, the Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, described the decision as a “new beginning” for Northern, and one that has been taken because the services offered to passengers on the rail network in the north has fallen well below the standards expected.
It comes as no surprise that the Northern Rail franchise will be run by the government; the besieged franchise has had serious problems since as far back as the timetable changes of summer 2018.
Customers suffered a number of cancelled services and severe delays. An investigation from the regulator found that passenger needs were not prioritised when planning and implementing the new timetable.
Yet unfortunately, those lessons were not learned. Problems continued and at the start of 2020, questions were raised over whether or not Northern Rail franchise is financially sustainable.
The decision therefore was widely expected and from 1 March, the government will run services on the network.
Mr Shapps said he is hopeful that ‘tangible’ improvements on the network will soon be felt.
“This is a new beginning for Norther, 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.
“This marks the first small step towards the north taking back control of its railways and its people taking back control of their travelling lives.”
Measures planned to realise the tangible improvements include the introduction of electric trains from elsewhere on the network, boosting capacity for commuters into Manchester and Leeds; lengthening platforms at 30 stations by spring; and a deep-clean of all existing trains.
Robin Gisby and Richard George, who lead the public sector operator, will prepare a plan for the first 100 days of public ownership.