City mayors call for Northern Rail to be stripped of its franchise after it emerges almost one in five of their trains arrives late

Northern Rail should be stripped of its franchise as millions of passengers endure a torrid service, the mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool have demanded.

A year after the botched introduction of a new timetable caused chaos across the North, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram pointed out almost one in five services has arrived late, 28,000 have been cancelled and passengers are being crammed on to trains that date from the days of British Rail but with fewer carriages.

Northern was also accused of failing to resolve the guards on trains industrial dispute, which has seen 46 days of strike action.

The mayors highlighted the state of Sunday services, saying that last Sunday alone there were 165 unplanned cancellations on top of 90 planned cancellations.

In a joint statement, the mayors said Northern Rail had ‘consistently failed’ to deliver its legally binding requirements and called on the Government to take over the management of Britain’s second-largest rail franchise. 

They added that there has been a huge increase in ‘shortformed’ services – reducing the number of carriages on the train – from 2,825 in December 2018 to 4,172 in April 2019.  

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Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, backed the intervention and said the ‘game is up’ for Arriva Rail North, which runs Britain’s second largest rail franchise.

Arriva is part of German transport giant Deutche Bahn.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘The contract has been a failure in every possible sense with delayed and cancelled trains, new services not being delivered and the dreaded Pacer trains still in operation.

‘Northern Rail passengers deserve better than this and they also deserve long overdue investment in the Northern Rail network.’

However, Northern said services had significantly improved since the timetable shambles a year ago. It said almost nine in ten trains now arrive within five minutes of their scheduled time and cancellations are ‘dramatically down’ since May last year. 

Managing director David Brown said: ‘Since last year we have made a large number of improvements, including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.’