Northern responds to regional mayor’s comments

Northern 195
Credit: Nodrog

Northern has released a statement after the Mayors of both Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region called for Arriva to be stripped of the Northern franchise.

12 months on from last years May timetable collapse, Mayors Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester) and Steve Rotheram (Liverpool City Region) made the call for the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to take the Northern franchise from Arriva and introduce an ‘operator of last resort’ – appointing a new board of directors to run the train operating company as soon as possible.

The Mayors believe that Northern has “consistently failed to show they are able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver their legally-binding franchise requirements.”

How has Northern failed?

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram say Northern have:

  • Failed to deliver significant and sustained improvement on performance – with one in five services arriving to their final destination late,
  • Failure to find a resolution in the RMT dispute over the role of the Guard,
  • Continue to fail in operating a Sunday service across the North West – a total of 255 services were cancelled last Sunday alone,
  • Failure to introduce new trains on time – with 4,172 services short-formed in April 2019, and meaning that Pacer trains may not be withdrawn from service by the end of the year.
  • Failing to introduce new services.

Whilst making their joint statement on Wednesday 29th May, both Mayors empathised with Northern staff who have to work in difficult circumstances and said they have remained dedicated and professional despite management failing them over the past twelve months. Both Burnham and Rotheram were clear that the rights of Northern staff must be protected under these new arrangements.

How did Northern respond?

Within the hours following the Mayors’ comments, Northern’s Managing Director, David Brown released a statement, saying

“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.”

Alongside his statement, Northern released information on the company’s performance and their plans for the future:

  • Almost 9 out of 10 services operated by Northern are arriving within at their final destination within five minutes of their scheduled time,
  • Cancellations have dramatically fallen since May 2018,
  • Hundreds of extra members of staff have been hired since the start of the franchise in 2016 – with more customer-facing roles being added,
  • 101 new trains will start to be introduced this summer, allowing for the refurbishment of the rest of the fleet, as well as the start of the retirement of Pacers,
  • Since the start of the franchise, Northern is now running approximately 2,000 extra services per week,
  • There has been a significant fall in the number of complaints,
  • Northern are now the leaders in Smart Ticketing,
  • Northern are working positively with colleagues in finding a solution to performance problems on Sundays.
What did the officials say?

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, 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 over-crowded. Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.

“The people of Greater Manchester deserve much better than this. That’s why, together with the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, I am calling on the Transport Secretary to strip Arriva Rail North of this franchise and stabilise the franchise under the control of the Government. It is only through taking this action that we can restore the trust of the public and deliver a rail network that finally works for its passengers.

“We wish to make clear that we do not blame the staff of Northern who have worked hard over the last year in very difficult circumstances. We believe they, and the travelling public, have been let down by Northern’s management who have had plenty of opportunity to show how they will meet franchise requirements but have failed to do so.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said

“For too long the people of the Liverpool City Region and the whole of the North have been forced to accept rail services that are simply not good enough. Whether it’s frequent cancellations, short forming of trains or late arrivals Northern’s board have repeatedly failed to deliver on their franchise obligations.

“Given Northern’s consistent failure to provide an acceptable service we believe it is now time for Chris Grayling to terminate their franchise and move to that operator of last resort, as soon as possible.

“Stripping Northern of their franchise will not solve all of the issues with our railways – the problems go far beyond just them – but it would be an important signal that the North is no longer prepared to put up with a second class service and a first step towards building the rail network that passengers deserve.”

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  • Perhaps Northern should consider packing their bags and go. And let another rail franchise to take over. Or even the government to take over the troubled Northern franchise and to form a open access operator just like they have have with the East Coast franchise as LNER is owned and managed by DfT & the government.

  • Correction-just like they have done with the East Coast franchise as LNER is owned and managed by DfT & the government.

  • I am employed by this god forsaken company!! I agree strip the franchise and sort this company out. Directors and managers should all go and be replaced by others who are capable of doing the job. All out for themselves and their big pay packets.

  • please tell me why it legal to stand in the isle of a train but you have to have a seat belt on in a car and also you can not stand on a bus

  • A bunch of lies from Northern Fail again. They successfully combined Swiss pricing with Albanian quality and reliability.

    Which is why our railways have been fallen behind than other countries have reliable railways. We are falling apart!!

  • Having just returned from a week-end in Liverpool I was shocked by the number of cancellations on the departure board over three days. The word on the street is that Arriva would like to pull out of Uk transport undertakings; if that is the case it would explain the apparent apathy. Clearly, something is going badly wrong, but I would not expect any positive action from Graylingville!