HOT OFF THE WIRE

Northern trains run for last day under Arriva Rail North

Northern trains run for last day under Arriva Rail North

  • 29 February 2020
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption German firm Arriva had been due to run Northern until 2025

Northern trains are running for the last day under Arriva Rail North before the government takes over control.

Passengers have faced widespread delays, cancellations and strikes since new timetables were introduced by the firm in May 2018.

A government operator will run services from Sunday after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said "people across the North deserve better".

Arriva said issues were mostly down to "external factors" like infrastructure.

The company also had an ageing fleet of trains, with services dubbed "Northern Fail" by frustrated passengers.

Image copyright Susan Ramsdale
Image caption The botched timetable rollout led to weeks of chaos

Figures from Office of Rail and Road showed 56% of Northern trains arrived at stations within a minute of the stated timetable time during the year to 7 December. That compares to a 65% average across Britain.

Arriva, a German firm, had been due to run Northern until March 2025.


Analysis

By Simon Browning, BBC News transport reporter

Image copyright Stephen Pimlott
Image caption Passengers showed their frustration at Manchester Piccadilly in 2018

If you're boarding a newly-branded "Northern Trains Ltd" service on Sunday with hopes of golden, brand-new carriages - the bad news is, there will not be an immediate change.

Even though the government has nationalised the Northern network after evicting previous franchise holder Arriva, the problems run far deeper than deep cleaning the fleet and bringing more electric trains to the network, as the government promises.

Long-term under-investment in new infrastructure is crippling the region. Urgent work is needed to boost capacity around major bottlenecks in Leeds and Manchester.

Because so many of the region's trains run through their stations, delays or breakdowns here knock on to the rest of the vast network.

Those who run services say the network is full and - as passenger numbers keep growing - it won't improve until these commitments are made.

The question is whether the prime minister will use some of the expected £100bn infrastructure fund in next month's budget to pay for the work?


Mr Shapps revealed in October he had requested a proposal from Northern to outline its improvement plans after "unacceptable" delays and cancellations.

The Department for Transport then had to consider whether to hand a new, short-term contract to Arriva, or to nationalise services by putting the government-controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR) in charge.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The northern network extends from the Scottish border to Lincolnshire

OLR already manages the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) franchise after rail services on the East Coast Main Line were brought back under government control in May 2018.

Northern services will transfer from Arriva Rail North to Northern Trains Limited - a newly-formed subsidiary of OLR.

The decision was welcomed earlier this year by northern mayors and union leaders, while Arriva's UK managing director acknowledged that "overall service improvements have not come quickly enough".

The Northern branding on the trains will remain and staff will continue in their jobs.