Government to take over Northern from March January 29, 2020

Overcrowding of trains has been an issue Northern, the rail franchise operated by Arriva Rail North across Yorkshire and the North of England is set to be put back into public ownership from March 1, it has been officially announced.

Instead of it being operated by Sunderland-based Arriva, since 2010 a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn which is owned by the German Government, it will be moved under the control of the so-called "Operator of Last Resort", run by the UK Department for Transport, which also took over the East Coast franchise as LNER in 2018.

Arriva Rail North had been awarded the Northern franchise by the UK Government in 2016 to run until 2025.

Northern continues to run Pacer trains into 2020, beyond their intended expiry date However, since taking over the franchise there has been widespread criticism of the company for overcrowding and delays, problems with new timetables, the strike at the company over train guards which involved well over 40 strike days between 2018 and 2019, and recently its 1980s trains.

Northern is still awaiting delivery of some of its new fleet from Spanish company CAF. Among its large ageing fleet of 1980s trains, it continues to operate bus-based Pacer trains beyond the original withdrawal deadline. Other 1980s trains continue to be refurbished for future life.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps said in a written statement in January: "Passengers in the north have had to put up with unacceptable services for too long. We understand how frustrating this has been for people and we are taking action to make sure that performance improves."

In his new further statement announcing that the Government would take over services from March 1, he added: "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."

"The roll out of new trains that’s already begun under Northern will continue and Pacers will be banished very soon on the western side of the Pennines. In Yorkshire, Pacers will be gone by the spring and next year, we will move electric trains from elsewhere on the network to the north, boosting capacity for commuters into Manchester and Leeds."

Chris Burchell, Arriva managing director for UK Trains 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."

A refurbished Class 150 Sprinter train, part of Yorkshire's proud train-building heritage of the 1980s, runs on in the region were it was born Recognising the hard work of the 6,000-strong team at Northern, he said: "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."

Arriva Rail North say passengers, employees and suppliers can expect operations to continue during the transfer period.

The Government has this week announced funding it is putting towards rail projects in the North.

In Yorkshire there is £250,000 for Middlesbrough station, to be matched by the Tees Valley Combined Authority. The aim is for the station to accommodate more, and longer, trains.

Although not among the top ten busiest Yorkshire stations, it is used by nearly 1.3 million passengers a year.

Will Yorkshire be the last region of Britain with Pacer trains? See Pacers in 2020.

Which are Yorkshire's busiest railway stations? See our Railway stations page.


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