/Grant Shapps suggests Northern WILL be stripped of rail franchise

Grant Shapps suggests Northern WILL be stripped of rail franchise

Grant Shapps appeared to confirm under-fire operator Northern Rail WILL be stripped of its franchise due to poor performance.

The Transport Secretary appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning as rail passengers face average fare hikes of 2.7pc despite fewer than two-thirds of trains being on time last year.

When asked about the performance of train operators, Mr Shapps stated that Northern’s franchise will ‘be brought to an end’ and that he would be saying more about it ‘very soon’.

“It is completely unacceptable to have a situation where, trains almost routinely don’t run to a routine, don’t run on time”, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast.

“I will simply not put up with that and I’ve already kicked off that process and I will be saying more about it very soon.”

Asked to confirm if he would remove the franchise from Northern, Shapps replied: “That’s right. In the Autumn I went to the necessary parties on this with what is called a ‘request for proposal’ and that is simply where you say; look I’m going to take action.

“There are a couple of ways that can go. One is to strip the franchise, one if to have a short-term contract.

“But yes exactly as you’ve said, I’m simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action.”

Mr Shapps later spoke to the Press Association and was once again asked to clarify if Northern would be stripped of its franchise.

He replied: “I already announced to Parliament in the autumn that I have started the process called a request for proposals.

Under-fire operator Northern Rail could be stripped of its franchise
(Image: MEN)

“That means it either will go to a direct award contract or to the Operator of Last Resort to run.

“The simple answer to the question is yes, it is going to be brought to an end.

“It’s partially a legal process but frustrated commuters will not have to wait long.”

The Manchester Evening News has asked the Department for Transport for further clarification on Mr Shapps’ comments.

In October last year, the minister told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that he had issued a “request for proposals” from Northern and the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), which could lead to services being brought into direct government control and run by the OLR.

According to recent reports, the Government has been looking at separating Northern into two franchises and transferred into public ownership in March.

The majority of rail services in Britain are operated under fixed-term franchises, which involve the DfT setting out specifications covering areas such as service levels, upgrades and performance.

Train companies then submit bids to run franchises, with the DfT selecting which applicants are successful.

The Campaign for Better Transport group says passengers have suffered ‘unreliable, expensive, overcrowded trains for too long’ and is calling for this system to be replaced by several models satisfying the different needs of passengers and communities across the network.

Network Rail data shows only 65% of trains arrived at their scheduled station stops within one minute of the timetable in the 12 months to December 7.

South Western Railway passengers suffered from strike action throughout December, while there was major disruption to Northern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains services during much of 2019.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union analysis of company accounts for train operators and three major rolling stock firms showed they have paid out £4.4 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last 10 years.

Transport Focus director David Sidebottom said: “After a year of pretty poor performance in some areas, passengers just want a consistent day-to-day service they can rely on and a better chance of getting a seat.”

He urged passengers to “offset the cost of the fare rises” by claiming compensation for every eligible delay.

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