Northern Rail brought into public ownership

29 January 2020, 13:11

Northern Rail has been put into public ownership
Northern Rail has been put into public ownership. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Northern Rail will be handed into public ownership from 1 March, it has been confirmed.

The troubled rail firm, which has faced months and years of cancellations and disruptions, has been stripped of its franchise and will be operated by the Government controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR).

The service was previously described as "completely unacceptable" by transport secretary Grant Shapps who ordered the formal talks on re-nationalisation.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Shapps said he wanted "real and tangible" improvements for passengers on Northern's routes.

He said: "I am announcing today that from 1 March the Northern Rail franchise will be taken into public ownership and the Government will begin operating services through the public-sector operator - the so-called operator of last resort.

"The public-sector operator is a company entirely owned by my department and run by experienced railway managers.

In a written statement to Parliament, Grant Shapps
In a written statement to Parliament, Grant Shapps said he wanted "real and tangible" improvements for passengers. Picture: PA

"It already owns and oversee another franchise, East Coast, which it brands as London North Eastern Railway. Passenger satisfaction has risen in the nineteen months it has been operating the service.

"This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning. Northern's network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right.

"Nonetheless, I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible."

Previous statistics released by YouGov revealed 51 per cent of the British public believed nationalising the firm was the correct.

This was compared to 37 per cent who did not think it should be re-nationalised, and 12 per cent who said they did not know.

The route will come under public ownership from 1 March
The route will come under public ownership from 1 March. Picture: PA

Britain's trade union for train drivers, ASLEF welcomed the news as it emerged.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said:  “We welcome today’s decision, because we want the railway in public ownership, but let’s do it properly, with a clear, long-term, strategic vision, not just as a short-term response to the years of franchised failure.

“There won’t be an immediate improvement because many of the systemic failures at Northern – the late delivery of new rolling stock, the cancellation by the Conservative government of infrastructure upgrades, trying to run a service with too few drivers – cannot be remedied overnight.

“Northern needs investment – the north of England has had much less than the south – and it won’t be a success until significant sums are invested in modernising its 19th century infrastructure.

"We need to build connectivity across the north, for passengers and for businesses, by engaging with metro mayors like Andy Burnham in Manchester and Steve Rotheram in Liverpool.

“And the plight of passengers would have been much worse without the flexibility of our members, who are also impacted when services are cancelled, because the company has never employed enough drivers to deliver the service it promised.”

More to follow...