' It's the end of the line for Northern Rail', says Transport Secretary

Daniel Fowler
January 12, 2020

Northern Rail is expected to be taken under state control as the beleaguered franchise reaches the "end game".

He made the comment after hearing a summary of the franchise's most recent available financial information.

The proposal requested from ARN is now reportedly being evaluated and following completion of that process Shapps will make a decision as to whether to award ARN a short-term management contract or whether to ask the Department for Transport's own Operator of Last Resort to step in to deliver passenger services.

Secretary of Transport Grant Shapps, who said he was "not ready" to tolerate the operator's poor performance, will reveal more about the government's plans during his visit to Leeds today.

The decision will be based on four factors: protecting the interests of passengers, ensuring business and service continuity, preserving the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money, and the continued quality of the franchise proposition.

The company has faced a range of issues in recent years, such as widespread cancellations amid the introduction of new timetables.

Following the statement by Mr Shapps Transport for the North has called on the government to show "full commitment" to rail services.

Chris Burchell, Arriva's managing director of UK Trains, said: "Assumptions were given when the plan for the franchise was developed that critical infrastructure projects would be delivered to enable growth and support capacity demands".

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He added: "To clarify, the current financial position of the Northern franchise will not impact on the railway's day-to-day operations".

"Many of them were either postponed or canceled".

On Thursday, Mr Shapps said in a written statement that he planned to announce his decision by the end of the month. Transport for the North's Strategic Rail Director, David Hoggarth, said: "This is an important day for rail users across the North of England".

"We've done so privately and publicly.Our leaders have been calling for more powers to make decisions about transport investment and operational matters, no matter how hard, for some time".

"While the forthcoming Williams review will rightly address issues with the franchising process in the North, government should urgently act to undertake the engineering works needed to allow operators to run services more effectively, including a number that could be started immediately".

"We've been clear that putting an "operator of last resort" [to nationalise the service] in place of Northern would be the only way to rebuild trust and confidence, and secure the right outcome for passengers". "This would be completely unacceptable", he said.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald previously said that Northern "should have been stripped of its franchise years ago".

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