Good News On Northern Rail

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From our correspondent in Swindon:

Troubled rail company Northern is to be brought under government control.

The decision, which will see the firm’s franchise stripped from operator Arriva Rail North from 1 March, was taken following years of major disruption.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said passengers had “lost trust in the north’s rail network”.

Arriva said it “understood the government’s decision”, but problems had been largely due to “external factors” such as rail infrastructure.

I’m really not sure that nationalisation or privatisation make much difference with rail. The contract, the fares, the services are all so heavily dictated by government, and so dependant on National Rail running the signals and points properly that it’s hard to run the sort of experiments to improve the service.

But it should be fun to see the results. Will the trains be super efficient, clean and cost a farthing to ride as the nationalisation fanboys say, or are they going to be as expensive and crap as ever?

Mr Shapps described the move as “a new beginning for Northern” but he sounded a note of caution for those expecting immediate dramatic improvements.

“Northern’s network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right,” he said.

The much-maligned Pacer trains must still be replaced and Mr Shapps said new technology would be rolled out to identify overcrowding issues.

He also revealed plans to extend platforms at 30 stations on the Northern network to allow for longer trains.

The new government-owned company will be asked to prepare a plan in the first 100 days “to make sure we leave no stone unturned in improving this franchise for passengers”.

So, no changes that were under the control of Arriva, platforms and types of train being decided by National Rail.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Anyone who remembers the days of BR will greet the idea of nationalisation with hollow laughter. The sandwiches were a particular favourite of mine 🙂

Itellyounothing
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Itellyounothing

And all the multiple fatality train crashes……

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

yeah, but that’s mostly not about BR vs private, because that’s about the infrastructure. And government spent eye-watering sums on things like ATP, far above cost per death. Most of the UK rail system is really still nationalised, directly or indirectly. People have this idea that it’s privatised, but if you take out what’s directly owned by the state (like the infrastructure), and what’s imposed by the state in terms of conditions to run the company (e.g. capping season ticket rises, First Great Western weren’t allowed to have a buffet car in their new trains), it almost might as well… Read more »

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

..and if you look at the stats fatalities per passenger mile and absolutely have declined since pseudo-de-nationalisation. And punctuality has increased. As has – from my own experience – the cleanliness of the trains.
Proper de-nationalisation could have achieved even more.

John B
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John B

They had to be accompanied by British Railways tea to get the full effect.

Pcar
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Pcar

Major made a mess of privatisation with his fixation on recreating history route area/monopoly GWR, LNER etc

Should have copied airline model with Slots being sold to introduces rail competition.

Oh, and 10 years of Cons and Network Rail (the big problem) still not unNationalised

@Tim agree?

PS Bin EU mandated HS2
Steve Barclay MP on The Andrew Marr Show – at end “Yes” HS2 will go ahead
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj0W-DHahvg

Whistleblowers expose HS2’s financial mismanagement
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsTVDbK71gQ

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

It wouldn’t make any difference. You still have single, central management and for many commuter journeys, largely a monopoly due to road congestion. Everyone bitches about rail, but they can’t go anywhere else. So the rail companies don’t care.

The reason buses are reliable and cheap is that it’s so easy to create a bus company.

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

Road and rail are not the principal competition for rail. Not using it is. That is relocating the employment to somewhere less costly (high rents always follow high rail subsidies / low fairs).

Spike
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Spike

It’s not just easy to create a bus company, but when passenger preferences and patterns change, it is easier to change a bus route than to change where the train tracks are.

jgh
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jgh

A technicality (my comment got swallowed by bugs yesterday):
Northern is *not* being nationalised, it is having its franchise taken off them, and the Government’s Directly Operated Rail will run the franchise. Northern will remain a private entity, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aviva, but with no revenue stream, so will either go bust or be wound up.

jgh
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jgh

Sorry, Arriva not Aviva. Dammit. Bring back Norwich Union.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

It was a directive from Brussels that instructed the, very partial, privatisation of British Rail. The network was kept in the state’s hand by threatening the use of a national security derogation. Since then passenger numbers are up, fares in real terms down, punctuality and safety have also improved since the days of BR. Satisfaction in the UK with rail is higher than the EU average:(https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/2018-09-18-eurobarometer-pax-rail-infographic.pdf) That a rail company has failed to offer a decent service, is as Tim points out, largely not their fault, there is something profoundly illogical and perverse if the train operator doesn’t also operate… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

“There can be but two explanations, either the government assessed that no private company would be interested, or more worryingly the government took over because in fact that is their bent. We shall see, but one does suspect that Mr. Johnson has very statist tendencies.” The government is just doing a lot of theatre right now about loving the north. They want to show they like them, and will take simplistic, stupid solutions just to do that. Fixing Northern’s problems is bigger than firing Arriva, but that makes a good press conference and reinforces loving the North. It’s why I’d… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

Northern is a very different franchise to all the others (except perhaps Wales) where the subsidy for running the trains dwarfs the fare revenue. To the point that Northern wasn’t particularly interested in having passengers — once when I got to a Northern station and the ticket machine wouldn’t sell the ticket I wanted, I was told by the voice at the end of the “help” button to walk 5 miles to another station to buy a ticket. It was the station I was trying to catch a train to. I’ve never had this sort of treatment from any other… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

The top two least-used-stations are in the Northern fanchise, Tees Airport (which is a mile from the airport terminal) and Redcar Steel (which has no public access).

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

If Arriva are so crap at running trains why didn’t they take the Chiltern Line back in to State control? Perhaps because its not the management that’s the failure point?

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Arriva are just the convenient villains. The left and the newspapers bang on about “privatisation”, even though most of the problems are external to them.Shapps has just taken a short term action.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Chiltern have two things going for them – there are no other trains on ‘their’ bit of the network (as least as far as Bicester), and they got given a longer than standard franchise. That said, their senior management (at least until recently) were all railway people, the chairman even running his own railway in his back garden:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeches_Light_Railway

Pcar
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Pcar

Re: PS Bin EU mandated HS2
Steve Barclay MP on The Andrew Marr Show – at end “Yes” HS2 will go ahead
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj0W-DHahvg

Thursday Front Page FT (and Telegraph)

Javid Pressuring Johnson to Approve £88 Billion HS2

FT and numbers: HS2 was £106 Billion last week (NAO)

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I’d bet money on it going ahead, if I could find someone to take the bet.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Sadly true. In future years HS2 will be written up as a case study of a gigantic failed project that should never have been started and resisted every attempt to shut it down.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

If the government can afford to waste this sort of money, they should spend it on nukes. They at least provide plentiful, reliable power from cheap fuel that can be easily stockpiled.

People would at least have a warm nights sleep before they’d have to go down to the station to catch the train.