Press release 28th January 2020

Northern re-nationalisation: "Nothing will change"

Grant Shapps is widely expected to announce the re-nationalisation of the Northern franchise. Commenting on this, Railfuture director Ian Brown said:

“So Northern have finally taken  the rap for the failure of the north’s rail network to adapt to a world where rail should play its part in the form of an efficient growing network.  An operator of last resort (i.e. the government) is to be brought in to manage the operation.

We should all hang our heads in abject, cringeable shame.

The RMT Executive Committee is happy seeing this as part of their campaign to nationalise the rail network . This model alone will fail just as Northern did.

The DfT must take its share of the blame too, being responsible for the decisions (or lack of them) that have caused the problems. Taking back the franchise will do nothing for users unless the operator and Network Rail work together to find an operational solution that is reliable in the short term, and which increases capacity in the long term.

The baying masses have their trophy like a fox being torn apart. The problem is that this doesn’t achieve anything. All the issues on the Northern network remain.  Nothing will change.

The fundamental problem of lack of infrastructure in the North must be tackled. We need to double the capacity of the North’s railway and attend to pinch points to make it reliable. An understanding of the laws of physics were pioneered in the North, silly to forget them.

There needs to be a strong client in the North and a period of sustained investment in infrastructure and service development, better optimising the needs of regional and currently, subordinated, urban travellers. Choices need to be made and the operational practices need to be improved to provide a 7 day reliable railway.  Passengers should be the focus, not disdained and regularly left in the cold.

The degree of naivety to think that all comes right with the fox hunt is at such a level where even the rail industry is embarrassed. But political populism is not about finding solutions, it is about allocating blame and gaining a honeymoon period even if you were already married to (and largely the cause of) the problem in the first place. The DfT cannot wash its hands of Northern franchise performance issues largely of its own making, nor hide behind an operational review of Network Rail to conclude that the North needs investment in more rail capacity.”

Notes to editors:

Ian Brown CBE FCILT is Railfuture's Policy Director and speaks on behalf of the Railfuture Board

Railfuture’s own in depth analysis of the issue can be found here: https://railfuture.org.uk/article1849-Northern-franchise

Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

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