Rail services on routes operated by Northern are to be brought under public control, the Transport Secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps said he wants passengers to see “real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible”.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA transport union, welcomed the decision but claimed it is time the Government understood that “franchising of our railways, while stuffing the mouths of shareholders with gold, has completely failed”.

The Government-controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR) will take over the franchise on March 1, under the name Northern Trains.

Ownership of Britain’s rail services
(PA Graphics)

The chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018 saw hundreds of Northern trains a day cancelled.

Punctuality and reliability problems continue to blight the network.

Office of Rail and Road figures show just 55% of Northern trains arrived at stations within one minute of the timetable in the 12 months to January 4, compared with the average across Britain of 65%.

German-based Arriva was due to run Northern until March 2025.

The OLR already runs services on the East Coast Main Line under the LNER brand, following the failure of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Shapps said: “It’s no surprise that passengers have lost trust in the North’s rail network.

“The service provided by the rail network in the North has failed to meet the needs of passengers.

RAIL Northern
(PA Graphics)

“People across the North deserve better, their communities deserve better and I am determined to achieve that.”

He added: “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.”

Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said “largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable”.

The problems faced by the firm included delayed and cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged industrial action.

Mr Burchell claimed the company had “helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network”, but added: “A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government’s decision today.”