News | Published May 30 2019

Mayors call on government to take control of Northern Rail

Two elected mayors in the northwest have urged the government to take over Northern Rail after accusing the operator of breaking promises and failing customers.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor for Greater Manchester and Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram hit out at Northern Rail over its failure to deliver service improvements as promised.

The mayors claim that the Department for Transport is now duty-bound to assume control of the firm in an intervention measure akin to the takeover of the East Coast Mainline in 2018.

The Department for Transport has responded to the appeals, saying that it sees no reason to consider intervention with the firm, which is operated by Arriva Rail North.

Northern Rail said it is working hard to make necessary improvements to its services.

The rail operator has been criticised for packing large numbers of commuters onto smaller trains with reduced carriages amid frequent delays.

The mayors have targeted the firm and its operator over neglecting to address overcrowding issues and exacerbating the problem by increasing the number of trains running with less carriages since December 2018.

Northern Rail has also imposed its own deadline of removing outdated Pacer trains from its network by the end of the year, a cut-off which the mayors feel the firm will be unable to meet.

“We have been extremely patient with Northern Rail but enough is enough,” Burnham told the BBC.

“They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that simply hasn’t happened”.

The mayors’ offices backed up the claims by publishing figures revealing Northern had cancelled 255 services on Sunday 26 May with a fifth of its services delayed throughout the day.

Norther Rail managing director David Brown said that pledged improvements toward newer trains and increased services were a work in progress.

A DfT spokesperson defended Northern Rail, stating that improvements had been made to its services since the turn of the year.

“At a time when performance is improving and brand-new trains are being rolled out to replace the unpopular and dated Pacers, changes could result in further significant disruption,” said the spokesperson.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
May 30 2019

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