Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is calling for an “urgent” clarification on the future of the troubled Northern Rail franchise.
On Thursday morning Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested Northern, which operates train services out of Liverpool Lime Street and across the North of England, could lose its franchise following years of delays, cancellations and timetable chaos.
The Department for Transport (DfT) followed this up with a short statement, saying: “As the Secretary of State said, he has started a process which would either strip Northern of its franchise or issue a short-term contract to them.”
However, both Mr Rotheram, and his Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham, have called on the Government to give more clarification and repeated the calls for Northern to be stripped of its franchise.
Mr Rotheram said: “For 18 months Andy Burnham and I have been calling on the Government to get to grips with of the chaos on the railways of the North and remove the franchise from Northern.
“Today’s announcement from the Transport Secretary that he is belatedly going to take some action will be welcomed by passengers – however it is still unclear what this means in practice.
“This is not good enough. Passengers and staff need clarity, so the Secretary of State should urgently explain his statement and set out a clear plan as to how he will bring back stability to our railways.
Passengers will also feel rightly aggrieved that rail fares on Northern have gone up by as much as £100 today for a service described as ‘unacceptable’ by the Secretary of State. Given this, the Government must now step in and cancel today’s fare rises.”
Northern itself response with a long statement from managing director Dave Brown in which he said the operator had faced “several material and unprecedented challenges in the past couple of years”. He said: “The most significant of these is the ongoing, late delivery of major infrastructure upgrades.