Transport

Northern Rail should be stripped of its franchise, say Manchester and Liverpool mayors

By David Prior at

The mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region have called on the Transport Secretary to terminate Northern’s rail franchise as soon as possible.

Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram believe Northern has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements.

They highlight its poor performance as a key reason, with nearly a fifth of all services arriving late and 28,000 services cancelled, as well as the failure to resolve the RMT industrial dispute (which has seen 46 days of strike action).

There has also been a failure to operate Sunday services, the mayors insist, with 165 unplanned cancellations just last Sunday.

The hated Pacer trains – a familiar sight at Altrincham Interchange – may not also be replaced now by the end of the year as promised.

And Burnham said that “enough is enough”.

He said: “They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened. Train services across Greater Manchester and the North West remain unreliable and over-crowded. Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have called for the Northern rail franchise to be terminated

“The people of Greater Manchester deserve much better than this. That’s why, together with the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, I am calling on the Transport Secretary to strip Arriva Rail North of this franchise and stabilise the franchise under the control of the Government. It is only through taking this action that we can restore the trust of the public and deliver a rail network that finally works for its passengers.

“We wish to make clear that we do not blame the staff of Northern who have worked hard over the last year in very difficult circumstances. We believe they, and the travelling public, have been let down by Northern’s management who have had plenty of opportunity to show how they will meet franchise requirements but have failed to do so.”

The Department of Transport has a legal duty to provide an Operator of Last Resort to ensure continuity of passenger services, in the event of a franchise failure. The Mayors have called for a commitment from the Government to provide resources to ensure all existing franchise commitments are delivered, including the introduction of new rolling stock, in the event of an Operator of Last Resort being appointed.