The government has taken over the running of services across the Northern rail network today (1/3/20), marking the start of a new era of public control for the northern franchise.
The decision to renationalise Northern Rail was announced in January, as the government acknowledged that the current model of rail privatisation across the country was “struggling to deliver,” and that major infrastructure investment is required to tackle failing services.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has now tasked the government operator with delivering a new vision for the north’s railways, restoring confidence for passengers and delivering tangible improvements, but has made clear that the complexity of the challenge means transformation will not take place overnight.
The government operator has launched a new panel to provide ongoing advice on how services will be run. Political leaders including Andy Burnham from Manchester and Judith Blake from Leeds will be joined by regional leaders from Liverpool, Tees Valley and Yorkshire, together with passenger representatives and industry leaders on the panel, which will be led by Richard George, the chairman of the operator.
The new panel aims to deliver a plan for improvements after its first 100 days, and has also announced that overcrowding on Northern’s network will be a priority focus for improvement, with new technology being trialled to identify crowding pinch points.
Work is underway to extend platforms at 30 stations across the network to allow for longer trains and improve journeys for passengers. Capacity will be further boosted with the roll-out of more electric trains across the network next year, in addition to the extra capacity already being delivered by the new fleet.
A major deep cleaning program is also underway, along with an overhaul of on-board cleanliness, to make sure carriages meet the high standards passengers deserve.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is new era for rail in the north, but there will be no quick fix for the network as we build solutions for the future. Today marks the beginning of rebuilding of trust in these services, and voices from the region will be essential as we work together to understand and deliver the improvements passengers need.
“Our aim is to give the north of England more powers over their railways, restoring the confidence of passengers and delivering a network they can truly rely on. We're listening to passengers and local leaders to make sure the needs of northern communities are put at the heart of northern rail.”
Chairman of the government’s operator, Richard George said: “The panel announced today will play a crucial strategic role as we look to transform services across Northern’s network, putting the needs of passengers first. By collaborating with local leaders, we’re taking a step towards reconnecting the railways with the people of the north. We need to improve performance and also provide passengers and their elected representatives with the confidence that their concerns are being addressed.”