Northern train
Northern train

The news to take the Northern franchise from Arriva and back in to public ownership is good news for the residents of the borough. The public should be asking however, why it has taken this long and what is the long term plan.

This is yet another failed private franchise. History shows it will be restructured over the next couple of years and put back in the hands of another private franchisee, likely of foreign ownership and as with many resulting in the fare paying public in Britain subsidising improvements to the railway in other countries as opposed to the much needed improvements here.

The DfT badly got their sums wrong when accepting Arrivas franchise bid, expecting them to achieve unrealistic targets amid ongoing chronic infrastructure issues in a part of the country that has seen the railways underfunded continually. Arriva for their part failed to resolve numerous issues within their gift and allowed major issues of strike action and driver unavailability to fester at the expense of the fare paying passengers. As a result the franchise has lost money hand over fist.

It’s the money that is the issue here, it’s run out and Arriva can’t operate the franchise and make a profit. I’d like to think it’s down to the awful service delivered by Arriva and if this is the case the franchise will not be given back to another private company but as I’ve said history shows that will not happen.

This truly is about money, and making franchises profitable for the private companies that line up to bid for them. Only a complete change of direction will bring about better services for the public and the needed improvements to infrastructure. A single integrated nationalised railway much like the type that you’ll see if you visit most of mainland Europe. Many countries have had a nationalised rail network for years, Germany for instance (home of the state owned Deutsche bahn which owns Arriva Rail North) have just cut fares by 10% in a move linked to climate change while we have been throwing billions away on a failed twenty five year privatisation fiasco that has seen the same trains running now that were running then and the highest fares in Europe being paid by the public whilst £4.4 billion has been paid to shareholders in dividends over the last 10 years. £4.4 billion that should have been used to improve our rail networks. The fare paying passengers deserve better than this continuing fiasco.

As we face a huge climate change crisis the railways need to be more attractive to people than ever but instead privatisation has had the complete opposite effect.

Steve Nott

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