Harrogate MP speaks out on Northern Rail decision

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones says the right action has been taken to strip Northern Rail of their franchise.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:12 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:14 am

The former Rail Minister welcomed the move by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps which effectively brought the failing operation back under Government control.

It is understood that Northern will cease operations on March 1, with ‘experienced’ Government officials then moving in.

Mr Jones confirmed he will now be holding talks with Mr Shapps, seeking assurances that Harrogate and Knaresborough services will not be even further disrupted by the switch.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones says the right action has been taken to strip Northern Rail of their franchise.

“Where we have a service that is failing passengers it is right that action is taken,” he said. “That action should put passengers at the front and centre of any changes, which is not the experience that many of my constituents tell me they have received in the past.

“I have discussed performance with Northern Rail in the past but it remains the case that the service offered remains far from satisfactory.

“During any transition away from Northern Rail we need to ensure that services continue to run - hopefully services which are improving in punctuality all the time - and that the new rolling stock must continue to be brought into service.

“I will be raising these concerns directly with the Secretary of State for Transport. We need to ensure that the change in operator is accompanied by a measurable programme of improvement.

“That is what passengers want and that is what the train service should be focussed on providing.” Mr Shapps has already warned that passengers should not expect vast improvements overnight, and that this is very much the start of a longer process.

And he accepted that all failing franchises needed to take heed from what has happened to Northern.

“Today’s announcement will inevitably raise questions about the future of rail privatisation,” he said. “Over the past twenty years privatisation has reversed over two decades of declining passenger numbers and passenger journeys have almost doubled to nearly 2 billion.

“However, it is clear that the current model is now struggling to deliver. Across the country a number of franchises are failing to provide the reliable services that passengers require. We know change is needed, and it is coming.”

He promised that from now on, as indicated by Mr Jones, that passengers across the north will be put at the heart of all decisions made.

“The Williams Review is looking at reforms across the railway to ensure customers are at the heart of the system, said Mr Shapps. “The railways were invented in the North of England and last year the Prime Minister promised that we would give the railway back to the places it was born.

“With local leaders having more power over local services, timetables, fares and stations. Today marks the first small step in that journey.

“The first step towards the north taking back control of its railways and its people taking back control of their travelling lives, and its economy being strengthened rather than weakened by its transport network.”