Updated 20 June, 13.55
THERE are new calls for Arriva’s Northern franchise to be terminated.
More politicians in north east England are now echoing previous messages from the Mayors of Manchester, Liverpool and North of Tyne, and also the TSSA union, who have all said they want transport secretary Chris Grayling to end the contract.
The North East’s Joint Transport Committee has been discussing the performance of Northern since 2017, when it was awarded to Arriva. The meeting also heard that plans to withdraw Pacers were running late, and that other franchise commitments are also not being met.
Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council represents the region’s rail interests at Transport for the North, and he said passengers in the region ‘deserved better’.
He continued: ‘The Northern franchise is failing passengers in North East England. New trains were promised, along with better stations, faster services, and an operator that would listen to the needs of our communities, but we have seen none of that.
‘We’re now being told commuters will have to suffer the rattling forty-year old buses-on-rails known as ‘Pacers’ for some time to come, leaving passengers suffering cramped conditions, poor reliability and frequent delays.
‘When new carriages are finally delivered they will be used in the North West and Yorkshire. Passengers in the North East will once again rely on second-hand trains, while investment in our stations is sadly lacking.
‘Even Northern Rail’s plans to expand show it is not listening – we have asked many times for new services through the under-served major centres of Sunderland and Hartlepool, but instead Northern Rail wants to force them along the East Coast Mainline, needlessly adding to congestion on this vital artery.
‘The North East’s local rail network has been an investment backwater for decades. The Northern franchise is just the latest to fail to deliver what it promised.
‘It is time to look at a different model for rail services in the North East, through public ownership focused on delivering for our communities to help build our economy.
‘We will be asking Transport for the North to help us make this case through the Williams Rail Review. Our rail travellers and our local economy deserve a lot better.’
Northern managing director David Brown said: ‘We agree the North deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers.
‘The unacceptable disruption following the May 2018 timetable change was caused by delays in infrastructure projects out of our control. We have apologised to our customers for the pain this caused. We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services.
‘Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for customers – including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.
‘These improvements are still a work in progress – but we are making things better for our customers. We want and expect things to continue to improve.’