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‘Enough is enough’: Mayors say Northern Rail should lose franchise | Business News

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The mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool have joined forces to call for Northern Rail to be stripped of its franchise and taken over by the government as soon as possible.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram called on Chris Grayling’s Department for Transport to take action claiming that Northern had “consistently failed” to show it can restore public trust or deliver legally-binding franchise requirements.

They said they were speaking out on behalf of the 4.3 million people they represent, 12 months after the network was disrupted by a chaotic rail timetable shake-up.

The mayors are now calling on the DfT to implement an ‘Operator of Last Resort’ and bring in a new board and team of directors to run the company as soon as possible.

They said that a fifth of services had arrived late, with 28,000 services cancelled, while there had also been a big increase in the number of services being “shortformed” – reducing the number of carriages on the train – from 2,825 in December to 4,172 in April.

The mayors also pointed to an ongoing industrial dispute with the RMT, resulting in 46 days of strike action, as well as a failure on Sunday services – with 165 unplanned cancellations last Sunday alone, on top of 90 planned cancellations.

Mr Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We have been extremely patient with Northern but enough is enough.

“They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened.

“Train services across Greater Manchester and the North West remain unreliable and overcrowded.

andy burnham comments on the manchester stabbings on New Years
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Andy Burnham says pledges to improve the service have been broken

“Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.”

Mr Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool city region, added: “Given Northern’s consistent failure to provide an acceptable service we believe it is now time for Chris Grayling to terminate their franchise.”

Northern Rail – which operates a network that covers cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield – is part of European transport group Arriva, which in turn is owned by Germany’s state-owned Deutsche Bahn.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, welcomed the mayors’ statement: “There should now be a swift transition of the Northern routes into a public sector operation.”

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.

“Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for our 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.”

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