Arriva’s Northern franchise ‘will only be able to continue for a number of months’, transport secretary Grant Shapps has warned.
In a written statement to Parliament Mr Shapps said: ‘On 16 October 2019 I informed the House, through the Transport Committee, that I had issued a request for a proposal to the current Northern franchisee, Arriva Rail North and to the Operator of Last Resort as the first phase of securing options for the continuation of passenger services on the Northern franchise.
’This was triggered by concern over the financial position of ARN. 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 proposal I requested from ARN is being evaluated.
‘Following completion of this process I will consider whether to award ARN a short-term management contract or whether to ask the Department of Transport’s own Operator of Last Resort to step in and deliver passenger services. Longer-term decisions on the franchise will be made in the light of the recommendations of the Williams Rail Review.’
Transport Focus director David Sidebottom said: ’Whichever organisation runs northern rail services, under whatever new arrangements, passengers will want a reliable service. They also need a clear plan on how the next operator will deliver sustained improvements without disruption and introduce all the new trains promised to increase capacity and address overcrowding.
‘Passengers deserve better. The next operator must listen to passengers and communicate their plan to improve services and rebuild trust.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This is just another fudge by the Tory Government on Northern but it still proves without a shadow of a doubt that their private franchise model for running our railways is finished. The whole privatisation experiment which has reduced our railways to chaos must now be consigned to the dustbin of history.
‘Other basket cases – South Western Railway, ScotRail, TransPennine Express and the rest – should also be put out of their misery and be brought into public ownership as soon as is practically possible and I have written again to the Transport Secretary to discuss exactly that.’
Labour has also repeated its call for a return to public ownership of the passenger railway. Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘The fragmented rail system does not work. We can’t go on with this system, which allows successive train operators to make a mess of our train services.’