Harrogate rail passengers hear Northern will lose franchise in new Government statement
Harrogate rail passengers learned today that - whatever happens to the troubled Harrogate-Leeds service - Northern is to lose the franchise.
After a public intervention by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, Transport Minister Grant Shapps has now confirmed that the under-fire rail operator is to lose its franchise sooner rather than later this year.
In a written statement issued today, Mr Shapps said: "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."
Northern, a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains, consistently comes bottom of Transport Focus’ passenger surveys and it's record on the Harrogate-Leeds line has been much-criticised in the last year for persistent delays and cancellations.
But the future of Northern and the services it runs across the region is still far from settled - or certain.
A decision has not yet been made about whether Northern will be given another, short-term contract, or if the Department of Transport’s own Operator of Last Resort to step in and deliver passenger services, effectively nationalising the service.
Mr Shapps said a decision would made on based on:
Protecting the interests of passengers
Ensuring business and service continuity
Preserving the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money
The continued quality of the franchise proposition
Mr Shapps said: "To clarify, the current financial position of the Northern franchise will not impact on the railway’s day-to-day operations.
"Services will continue to run and there will be no impact on staff."
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones told the Harrogate Advertiser earlier this week that it was a "great shame" but, despite some improvements in rail services, Northern's performance in letting down passengers was simply not acceptable.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps began looking at the future of the franchise back in October.
Even if the service is taken back into Government control, the one word unlikely to appear from ministers is "nationalisation."