The end of the Northern line - Reaction to Northern Rail collapse
Rail services on routes operated by troubled Northern Rail will be brought under public control as the Government finally got tough after years of poor service.
Commuters in Harrogate have long-complained about the level of service they have experienced on the route between York and Leeds, with recent satisfaction survey results at an all-time low.
Now, the much-criticised rail operator has been stripped of its franchise with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirming the routes will be serviced through the so-called Last Resort.
He said the new public sector operator would be “a company entirely owned by my Department and run by experienced railway managers”.
Mr Shapps said: “This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning. Northern’s network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right. Nonetheless, I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible.”
He promised that in Yorkshire the hated 1980s’ Pacer trains will be gone by the spring and that next year electric trains will be moved to the North from elsewhere in the network, boosting capacity for commuters in Leeds and Manchester.
New technology will be trialled to identify “crowding pinch points” and platforms at 30 stations across the Northern network would be extended to allow for longer trains.
All Northern’s trains will be deep-cleaned, said Mr Shapps, and the Government will review the cleaning pattern “to make sure the first and last passengers travel on trains in the same condition”.
Northern Rail’s argument has long-been that its £60o million investment programme to improve services for passengers had been undermined by Network Rail’s failure to deliver the necessary infrastructure.
Mr Shapps accepted that many of Northern’s problems were due to inadequate infrastructure and said that the leaders of the public sector operator would now sit down with Network Rail “and build a comprehensive new masterplan”.
Earlier this week, a passenger satisfaction survey on Northern Rail had revealed how figures had hit an all-time low.
The National Rail Passenger Survey from passenger watchdog Transport Focus, revealed how only 72% of Northern passengers had said they were satisfied with their last journey - the joint-lowest level of satisfaction since the report started 20 years ago.
The transport user watchdog’s chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Passengers tell us that their biggest priority is rail services they can rely on to actually get them to work or home on time. When that doesn’t happen, it impacts the rest of their lives.
“Poor scores for how delays were handled show that passengers still aren’t getting the help they need when facing disruption.
“Northern and TransPennine Express passengers have suffered for a long time now. Enough is enough.”
Harrogate passengers have been quick to point the finger at Northern as services continued to fail. One regular passenger on the Harrogate-Leeds line said it was simply not good enough.
Marc Steward said: “Delays to services have been a regular occurrence... and have continued into 2020. Northern may not be fully to blame but it is their name on the trains. They should be apologising to paying passengers on the platform in person when trains are cancelled and delayed.”
Mr Steward, who gets the train from Knaresborough to Leeds/Burley Park four days a week, said he had been let down by the 17.09 service back from Leeds three nights running from January 14-16.