Now, let's get the trains running properly

I took a train to Rochdale during the holiday period. I was lucky, the one before and after mine were cancelled due to 'driver shortage’. 

“There should be a minimum height qualification then,” deadpanned one passenger. 

It wasn’t a laughing matter. My train was so packed you had to go in hard, all elbows and shoulders. 

Just 50% of services arrived on time last year, which is a record for poor UK rail performance

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, earlier in the month, said on the BBC he deplored the “completely unacceptable” service after two years of pathetic performance, poor communication and what appears a species of haughty arrogance from the company’s management. The latter’s weasel words to excuse its performance have added insult to injury.

A rail ticket hike across the country of 2.7%, from 2nd January, while being lower than inflation at 3.1%, caused further outrage given the level of service, particularly in the North. 

Northern Rail, a cog in the German-owned company Arriva, has been quite remarkably bad. Just 56% of services arrived on time last year, which is a record for poor UK rail performance. Terrible industrial relations with its workforce have compounded the problems.

Northern Rail Chaos
Not much more than 50% of trains arrived on time last year

Now Shapps has acted and the franchise for Northern Rail has run off the rails. 

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, responded with: “(The) news is a victory for passengers who have had to endure almost two years of misery and mayhem on Northern Rail. 

“We are pleased the government has finally answered our call and returned the Northern franchise to public ownership.  But today’s welcome move by ministers is only the start of fixing the North’s railways. 

“The Government must now commit to investing in much-needed rail infrastructure and work with leaders across the North to deliver the vision and funding needed to build the modern transport network that the people of our region deserve.”

Arriva has said it "understood the government's decision", but problems had been largely due to "external factors" such as rail infrastructure.

It would wouldn't it. For people in the North government ownership, as Burnham and Rotheram, point out is not a cure-all. Time will tell if the money arrives to substantially improve the service Northern Rail so notably failed to deliver. 

This article was updated on 30 January, 2020.

19 10 09 Andy Burnham Bus
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, waiting for a train
2019 01 02 Northern Rail 2
Northern Rail grinds to a terminal halt