Northern Rail to be brought under government control

January 29, 2020

Northern Rail will be brought under government control from March 1.

The troubled firm, which operates many of the train services running in and out of Lancaster and Morecambe, will be brought under public ownership after constant delays on the railways and frustrations for passengers.

Arriva Rail North, which operates Northern Rail, will be stripped of its franchise and Northern Trains Limited, a subsidiary of the government-run DfT OLR Holdings Limited (DOHL), will take over all Northern services.

“This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning," said Grant Schapps, the Transport Secretary.

“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 government has pledged to introduce more electric trains to boost capacity for commuters into Manchester and Leeds, lengthen platforms at 30 stations by the spring to allow longer trains to run, deep-clean trains and improve the reliability of Sunday services. 

Chris Burchell from Arriva said: “We had a clear vision for the Northern franchise that would better connect the cities of the North with more frequent, reliable and modern services and unlock economic growth.

"It was clear however that, largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable.  A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services.  As such, we understand Government’s decision today.

“I would like to recognise the hard work of the 6,000 strong team at Northern who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to deliver improvements to local rail services in the North, at times under extremely difficult conditions.

“The scale of the challenges we faced outside of our direct control were unprecedented, particularly around delayed or cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged strike action. Despite the challenges, the team has introduced brand new trains onto the network for the first time in a generation. They have introduced more than 2,000 extra services per week, refurbished trains and stations, and created hundreds of new customer-facing jobs as part of a £600 million investment programme for the North.

“We recognise however that overall service improvements have not come quickly enough, and passengers deserve better. For that, we wholeheartedly apologise. We now stand ready to support Government and the Operator of Last Resort to ensure a smooth transfer for our passengers and colleagues alike.

“I am confident that as a result of the determination and hard work of the Northern rail team, they have helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network.”

A Northern Rail spokesperson said all Arriva Rail North passengers, employees and suppliers can expect operations to continue during the transfer period.