STRUGGLING rail firm Northern could be on its way out by the end of this month, the Transport Secretary has announced.

In a written statement to Parliament, Grant Shapps said passengers "have had to put up with unacceptable services for too long".

But, he said a decision on the future of the franchise would be made by the end of January, in line with a process of reviewing Northern's operations which was kicked off in October 2019.

In response to Mr Shapps' statements, Northern says many of its troubles have been caused by delayed infrastructure projects, such as the long-delayed electrification scheme through Bolton.

However, the Transport Secretary said the his department will be coming up company's operation will be analysed against four principles, including:

  • Protecting the interests of passengers
  • Ensuring business and service continuity
  • Preserving the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money
  • The continued quality of the franchise proposition

He added: "In order to inform this decision, the department will assess the extent to which each option performs against these principles.

"Our value for money assessment will be based on a number of criteria, including which option returns most money to the taxpayer, the risks attached to each, and the value of any improvements in passenger services.

"I intend to announce my decision before the end of January 2020."

Chris Burchell, is managing director of UK trains for Arriva, which runs Northern.

He said: "We accept services on the Northern network are not yet good enough and we sincerely apologise to our customers for our role in that.

“Many of the issues affecting the franchise however are outside the direct control of Northern. Assumptions were given when the plan for the franchise was developed that critical infrastructure projects would be delivered to enable growth and support capacity demands.

"Many of these have either been delayed or cancelled. This, along with unprecedented levels of strike action, has had a significant impact on the franchise – both in terms of service and financial performance.

“These challenges will continue to affect services irrespective of who is running them. What is needed is a new plan, and, in that analysis, we are fully in agreement with government. That is why the government asked us to prepare a business plan for a shorter ‘Direct Award’."