CALLS for Northern Rail to be stripped of its franchise have been made by the Greater Manchester Mayor after a series of failures and broken promises, but "change could result in significant disruption" according to the Department for Transport.

Andy Burnham has said "enough is enough" to Northern, calling on the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to have its franchise terminated, in response to months of disastrous performance and ever-diminishing public confidence.

The Department for Transport has however thrown its weight behind Northern Rail in response, saying department chiefs "see no reason at this stage to consider making changes".

The Mayor of Greater Manchester was joined by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram in today's demands for Northern Rail to be ousted.

Just over the last year, almost a fifth of all services arrived late, there were 28,000 cancellations and a surge by more than 2,000 in the number of "shortformed" trains - trains which arrive with carriages missing - the mayors say that time has finally run out, 12 months after Northern's rail timetable collapse.

Passengers have been equally as critical of the cancelled, overcrowded and outdated trains, dubbing the operator "Northern Fail" instead.

Complaints were also launched by the mayors about the 46 days of Northern strike action which affected passengers after the RMT industrial dispute, along with the operator's failure to operate Sunday services, introduce new trains and deliver new services as promised.

The mayors are demanding that the Department for Transport bring in a new board with a team of directors to take over as soon as possible, six years before the franchise was due to end.

The pair say the department has a legal duty to ensure continuity of passenger services, asking that it provides resources to solve some of the problems, such as the introduction of new rolling stocks to replace "hated Pacer trains".

Mr Burnham said: “We have been extremely patient with Northern but enough is enough. They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened. Train services across Greater Manchester and the North West remain unreliable and over-crowded. Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.

“The people of Greater Manchester deserve much better than this. That’s why, together with the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, I am calling on the Transport Secretary to strip Arriva Rail North of this franchise and stabilise the franchise under the control of the Government. It is only through taking this action that we can restore the trust of the public and deliver a rail network that finally works for its passengers."

The Department for Transport says that changes will not be made as it could result in "significant disruption".

A spokesperson said: “We have seen much needed improvements in Northern services since last year, with industry expert Richard George driving forward a recovery plan focused on reliable services.

“Alongside Transport for the North, who co-manage the franchise, our absolute priority is delivering the services that passengers expect and deserve.

“At a time when performance is improving and brand-new trains are being rolled out to replace the unpopular and dated Pacers, change could result in significant disruption. We see no reason at this stage to consider making changes to the franchise.”

Northern Rail has also now responded to the mayors' calls.

David Brown, Managing Director at Northern said: "We agree the North deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers.

"The unacceptable disruption following the May 2018 timetable change was caused by delays in infrastructure projects out of our control. We have apologised to our customers for the pain this caused. We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services.

 "Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for customers – including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.

"These improvements are still a work in progress – but we are making things better for our customers. We want and expect things to continue to improve.”  Northern rail took over the franchise in 2016, but ever since the operator has struggled to meet promises of better service made by Chancellor of the time, George Osborne.

Conistent failures culminated in a disastrous timetable change last year, which saw passengers left bereft of services on a daily basis.

Northern said it would take all Pacers, which were introduced more than 30 years ago, off the network by the end of the year as it phased them out in favour of new and refurbished electric and diesel stock.

The mayors believe that the Pacer promise may not be met too.

The Northern franchise is planned to run until 2025, with a potential additional year dependent on performance.

Despite the strong criticism of Northern Rail, the two mayors directed their frustrations at the management rather than staff.

Mr Burnham said: "We wish to make clear that we do not blame the staff of Northern who have worked hard over the last year in very difficult circumstances.

"We believe they, and the travelling public, have been let down by Northern’s management who have had plenty of opportunity to show how they will meet franchise requirements but have failed to do so.”