Shapps considering DfT takeover of Northern Rail franchise

Evaluation underway after warnings that contract with operator Arriva may collapse within months

Transport secretary Grant Shapps could end Arriva's role in Northern franchise. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

10 Jan 2020

The government could take over the running of Northern Rail within months as the franchise operator Arriva is facing financial difficulties.

In a statement to MPs yesterday, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the department plans to end the franchise deal with Arriva, which has been in place since 2016, due to the company's financial difficulties.

In its place will either be a more tightly-regulated management contract for Arriva to continue running the line, or the route will be taken over by the department’s own operator of last resort, which has previously run services on the East Coast mainline after franchise failures.


Both options are being evaluated, with a decision expected imminently as Shapps said: “It has now been confirmed to me from the most recent available financial information that the franchise will only be able to continue for a number of months.”

The decision will be based on four factors: protecting the interests of passengers, ensuring business and service continuity, preserving the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money, and the continued quality of the franchise proposition.

Northern Rail’s service has long been criticised as passengers have faced widespread cancellations amid the introduction of new timetables.

Shapps acknowledged that "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,” he said, with longer-term decisions on the franchise set to be made after the department has received the report on the future of the industry being undertaken by former British Airways boss Keith Williams.

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