Northern’s owner Arriva has hit back at claims the company should be stripped of its franchise after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons Transport Committee the Operator of Last Resort may be called in to take over.
Mr Shapps said on 16 October he had issued a request for proposals from both Arriva and OLR, saying of the franchise. Northern has faced challenges in relation to late delivery of new trains, causing Pacers to be retained into 2020, poor service performance due to the inability of infrastructure to handle its planned timetables, and a series of industrial disputes.
However, Arriva’s UK Trains MD Chris Burchell has told Modern Railways that, whilst it might seem attractive to blame the operator, the various issues facing Northern are very much out of its control and would not be solved by a takeover by the Operator of Last Resort. ‘Most of what’s happening there has been or continues to be outside our direct control’ he said. ‘Those issues and those challenges will remain no matter who is operating that franchise and what name is on the side of the trains. They still need to be fixed and some of them are deep seated and some are really quite tricky. It’s the most complex set of circumstances that perhaps any franchise is trying to handle. I think we are best placed to deal with all of that, albeit we need patience and we need time, and frankly we need a new plan.’
More from the exclusive interview with Arriva’s Chris Burchell in the December issue of Modern Railways, on sale 21 November.