Struggling Northern Rail could be nationalised within months, warns Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
He said its poor performance meant “it’s the end of the franchise” – adding it could only continue “for a number of months”.
And today, in a written statement to both Houses he said:
“On 16 October 2019 I informed the House, through the Transport Committee, that I had issued a request for a proposal to the current Northern franchisee, Arriva Rail North (ARN) and to the Operator of Last Resort as the first phase of securing options for the continuation of passenger services on the Northern franchise. This was triggered by concern over the financial position of ARN.
“It has now been confirmed to me from the most recent available financial information that the franchise will only be able to continue for a number of months.
“The proposal I requested from ARN is being evaluated. Following completion of this process I will consider whether to award ARN a short-term management contract or whether to ask the Department of Transport’s own Operator of Last Resort to step in and deliver passenger services.
“Longer-term decisions on the franchise will be made in the light of the recommendations of the Williams Rail Review.”
He added: “To clarify, the current financial position of the Northern franchise will not impact on the railway’s day-to-day operations. Services will continue to run and there will be no impact on staff.”
Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director, Henri Murison said:
“While there has been a great public clamour for stripping Northern of their franchise, and a belated recognition that Trans Pennine Express are just as bad, the crying shame is that whoever operates the railways in the North will struggle to run good and reliable services because of the major infrastructure issues in and out of some of our major cities.
“Ministers trumpet the Ordsall Chord as a significant achievement, but in reality – without the associated infrastructure improvements around Manchester Piccadilly, the Castlefield corridor and around Sheffield to name but a few – this should have just been the start of the major improvements we should have seen as part of the Northern Hub.
“Indeed, the Ordsall Chord has arguably made things worse without associated improvements.
“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.
“Otherwise we risk a situation where the North faces years more misery on its rail network – regardless of who runs the trains.”