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Andy Burnham Wants Northern Rail Investigation

It's after a surge in complaints about delays, cancellations and overcrowded trains

The performance of railway provider Northern Rail is now so poor that the time has come for an official investigation to establish whether it is breaching its license to operate, according to Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Since the start of the year, the Mayor has been bombarded with complaints about Northern’s service from long-suffering commuters. Recognising that their patience has run out, Andy’s intervention follows weeks of disruption for travellers using the rail network across the city-region, including frequent delays, last-minute cancellations and often dangerously overcrowded on-board conditions.

The Mayor has written to Transport for the North (TfN) highlighting a series of missed deadlines and examples of serial poor performance, which he says has made travelling by train a misery for many.

In questioning whether Northern’s recent record has resulted in the operator breaching the terms of its franchise, the Mayor highlighted “an unacceptably poor service in recent weeks”.

Andy said: “Enough is enough. Northern Rail passengers, the people of Greater Manchester, deserve so much better than the dire service they have been forced to endure in recent months.

“I am calling for TfN formally to assess whether Northern is in breach of its franchise agreement.”

In his letter to John Cridland, Chairman of TfN, the Mayor sets out the causes of his frustration and calls for action.

“I believe Transport for the North should now consider escalating its response and assess whether Northern are in breach of the performance targets as set out in its franchise agreement.

“I would also be grateful if you could set out what actions can be taken by Transport for the North should it be determined that Northern are in breach.”

In November the Mayor wrote to Northern and described the situation as “completely unacceptable.” Last month, in further correspondence with Northern, Network Rail and the Secretary of State for Transport, Andy called for immediate action to be taken to improve services.

Data shows that Northern has recently missed its targets for delays and cancelled services, including double the number of anticipated cancellations during March.

In addition, several public commitments made by Northern to Greater Manchester passengers have not yet been met, including:

  • Increased trains per hour between Manchester and a number of Greater Manchester and other locations
  • New route options and connections to new destinations
  • Sunday timetables to be enhanced offering additional services on some corridors
  • Refurbished bi-mode trains operating between Manchester Airport and Windermere and Manchester Airport and Wigan North Western
  • Refurbished electric trains operating between Manchester and Preston via Bolton

The people of Greater Manchester communicate with the Mayor via social media, highlighting their negative experiences of train travel.

One commuter told the Mayor: “This morning’s train into Manchester is as ridiculous as ever. Doors keep jamming and if someone doesn’t pass out due to heat and overcrowding it will be a miracle! Please hold Northern to account.”

Another added: “On a daily basis we have to put up with the incompetence and frankly dangerous overcrowding on Northern Rail trains. When are you going to help us @MayorofGM? We deserve a public transport system that can do the basics!”

Andy said: “How can it be right that Northern presides over a service on which dangerous overcrowding in rush-hour is the norm, to such an extent that we know passengers have been taken ill? What accountability exists for an operator so persistently failing in its duty to deliver a reliable, safe service?

“The time has come to increase pressure on Northern to start delivering for its customers.”

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