Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that from March 1st 2020, the government will take over running services on the Northern Rail network.
The government recognises that the rail network in the North has fallen far short of delivering the service passengers need and deserve.
This comes after the Transport Secretary announced on 9th January that the Northern franchise was no longer financially sustainable and would only be able to continue for a small number of months.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is a new beginning for Northern, 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.
“Today marks the first small step towards the north taking back control of its railways and its people taking back control of their travelling lives. There will be no more leaving behind. This government is committed to levelling-up.”
The government also recognises the scale of the challenge ahead. The Northern network is huge and complex – serving over 108 million passenger journeys a year on 2800 daily services, calling at 528 stations.
To ensure a new vision for the railway is put in place the Transport Secretary has asked Robin Gisby and Richard George, who lead the public-sector operator, to prepare a plan in their first 100 days.
This will be a top to bottom review of everything from operational management, to rostering patterns and, most critically, customer experience, to make sure we leave no stone unturned in improving this franchise for passengers.
It will also include setting up a cross-industry task force to deliver recommendations for improving capacity and performance.
Many of Northern’s problems are infrastructure-related. The Transport Secretary has instructed the leadership of the public-sector operator to sit down with Network Rail and build a comprehensive new masterplan to review congestion around Manchester.
Continuing to assess the Castlefield Corridor, as well as key junctions and interactions across the wider network to develop a series of interventions which will actually deliver the improvements required. Further interventions around Leeds will also be considered.
The government is also reiterating that today’s decision in no way reflects on the staff of Northern. They are dedicated, hard-working and committed to their customers. The government wants to provide reassurance that this decision will not affect jobs or introduce changes to fares or tickets for passengers.