Leeds Labour MPs accuse Government of dithering over Northern Rail decision

Ministers have been accused of dithering “for years” and “failing to get a grip” of the crisis surrounding Northern Rail by five Leeds MPs.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 11:52 am
Updated Monday, 28th October 2019, 11:59 am
MP Rachel Reeves. Photo: JPI Media

The Labour politicians have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today to demand the company is immediately stripped of its franchise and attacked the Government over how long the difficulties have dragged on.

Earlier this month, Mr Shapps, appearing before the Transport Select Committee, said he had taken the first steps in the process.

In a letter signed by Rachel Reeves (Leeds West), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Richard Burgon (Leeds East), Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) and Alex Sobel (Leeds North West), it said: “Whilst we do not understand why it has taken the Government so long to realise that Northern does not deserve to run our railways, we were relieved to hear your recent comments to the Transport Select Committee that the Government is finally considering bringing Northern into public ownership.”

But the group said: “Rail passengers in the North have been forced to put up with repeated delays to services and frequent cancellations, as well as dangerous and uncomfortable levels of overcrowding. They are paying for a woeful service that falls way below acceptable standards.”

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They added Northern would “never be capable of delivering the improvements our communities deserves and that our economy needs”.

Ms Reeves said: “People in Leeds and across the North have been forced to suffer an appalling train service at the hands of Northern Rail for far too long.

“The Government has allowed this unacceptable situation to drag on and on by failing to impose any consequences on Northern for its inadequate performance.

Mr Shapps told MPs on October 16 he had issued a "request for proposals" from the firm and the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), which could lead to services being brought into direct government control and run by the OLR.

He went on: "I entirely believe we cannot carry on just thinking it's OK for trains not to arrive or Sunday services not being in place. That simply has to change."

David Brown, Managing Director at Northern, previously said: “Arriva and Northern remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North’s railways and improving customers’ experience.

"We are delivering the biggest transformation of local rail for a generation, with 29 of our 101 new trains in service from Monday and driver training taking place on dozens more trains right now.”