A decision on the future of the Northern franchise is expected by the end of January.
In a ministerial statement on 9 January, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed there was concern over the company’s financial position, saying the franchise will only be able to continue ‘for a number of months’.
Mr Shapps confirmed in October last year that he had issued a request for proposal to the current operator Arriva Rail North and to the Operator of Last Resort, which would result in termination of the current deal. He said in his most recent statement that the proposal from ARN is being evaluated, after which either ARN will be awarded a short-term management contract or OLR will be asked to step in. Mr Shapps added that longer-term decisions on the franchise will be made in the light of the recommendations of the Williams Rail Review, which had been due to report in the autumn.
Senior figures at Arriva have previously highlighted to Modern Railways that the challenges facing Northern are outside the operator’s control, and have suggested Arriva would be best placed to continue operating the franchise rather than bringing in an Operator of Last Resort. However, Transport for the North says bringing in OLR would be ‘the only way to rebuild trust and confidence, and secure the right outcome for passengers’.