Northern Rail to be nationalised in March
By Megan Oyinka
The government has moved to take Northern Rail back into public ownership after months of overcrowding, delays and cancellations. The move which will mean the company franchise will be changed from the original operator Arriva Rail North on the 1st of March of this year following a history of unreliable service.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC said passengers had “lost trust in the north’s rail network.”
Arriva said it “understood the government’s decision”, but problems had been largely due to “external factors” such as rail infrastructure.
Passengers of Arriva Rail North have faced problems with the service since new timetables were introduced in May 2018 and many customers have complained about the punctuality and overcrowding of the service.
The change in management means that the train services will now be operated by “an arm’s-length government-owned company”, as reported by the BBC.
The German Company was set to manage Northern Rail lines until March of 2025, but it had been revealed in October by Grant Sharps that he had requested a proposal from Arriva Northern Rail to outline its solutions to improve it’s “unacceptable” delays and cancellations.
The Department for Transport was then given the choice between a short term contract to Arriva or agree to nationalise and put the government-controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR) in charge.
Arriva, however, also faced issues from infrastructure projects, strike action and most of its trains being very old makes. These issues led to the poor performance which earned it the nickname ‘Northern Fail’ from it’s unsatisfied passengers.
Recent figures from the Office of Rail and Road revealed how just 56% of Northern trains arrived at stations within a minute of the stated time on the timetable in the 12 months to the 7th of December. That compares to an average across Britain of 65%.
Arriva also claimed that a number of external factors, made some of the company’s targets “undeliverable”; industrial action by RMT and delayed and cancelled infrastructure projects caused the service to decrease in quality.
Statistics suggest over half of delays on the entire UK rail network were down to problems with the infrastructure, like signalling.
Services will be transferred from Arriva Rail North to Northern Trains Limited to a newly formed Department for Transport’s OLR.
OLR, a public company, is staffed by experienced train managers and has to report directly to the government about its service. Since May 2018, when rail services on the East Coast Main Line were taken over, the company has managed the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) but this was only planned to last for two years.
In response to the decision to strip Northern Rail of the franchise, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said:
“Today’s news is a victory for passengers who have had to endure almost two years of misery and mayhem on Northern Rail.
“We are pleased the government has finally answered our call and returned the Northern franchise to public ownership. But today’s welcome move by ministers is only the start of fixing the North’s railways.
“The Government must now commit to investing in much-needed rail infrastructure and work with leaders across the North to deliver the vision and funding needed to build the modern transport network that the people of our region deserve.”