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Author Topic: Arriva to lose Northern Franchise  (Read 2571 times)
Timmer
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« on: January 02, 2020, 10:19:48 am »

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/northern-rail-franchise-grant-shapps-cancellations-train-fares-a9267261.html

Quote
Northern Rail is to be stripped of its franchise because of its “unacceptable” performance, transport secretary Grant Shapps has said.

“I’m simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action,” he told BBC Breakfast.

It is “completely unacceptable” for trains to be “routinely” late, he said. ”I simply will not put up with that.”
Continues...
« Last Edit: January 02, 2020, 10:27:38 am by Timmer » Logged
bobm
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2020, 10:27:26 am »

BBC are suggesting the decision hasn't been made yet but could be in "a matter of weeks".

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50971629

Quote
The government has described Northern rail services as "unacceptable" as delays continue to plague its trains.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he is "not prepared" to tolerate the commuter line's poor performance.

In October, Mr Shapps said he had taken steps that could lead to the operator being stripped of its franchise.

Northern rail said the late delivery of big infrastructure projects had disrupted its services.
Giving evidence to the Commons' Transport Select Committee last year, the transport secretary said that he had issued a "request for proposals" from the company and the Operator of Last Resort.
This could lead to Northern rail's service being brought under government control.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2020, 02:08:06 pm »

BBC are suggesting the decision hasn't been made yet but could be in "a matter of weeks".

From Admins at Northern Resist

Quote
I’ve just spoken to the press association, the reporter spoke to Grant Schapps directly this morning & said he confirmed Northern would be stripped of the franchise, however, further comments from the DfT state that Northern may be offered a short term contract with notice to improve!!

So it would appear that they will be stripped of the franchise and offered an operating contract instead with a short timeframe on it ... so not necessarily an end to Arrive at Northern.   Good day to dilute rail change news with rail fare changes - there's only so much news that can be printed "above the fold".  Smoke and mirrors job - headline "I will remove the franchise", subtext "but give them an alterative".   

I can't help wondering how many of the problems are correctly laid at the door of Northern and how many o f the problems there are external to them - Network Rail, Government, RoSCOs not meeting delivery promises and rather than risk DB suing the government, the DfT is offering them a sweetener to keep them onside.
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stuving
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2020, 02:27:48 pm »

I suspect that the contract includes a process for termination, and that requires that some of the other measures for dealing with poor performance happen first. There is something similar in the GW one, and I'd expect similar provisions (but not so similar it'd be worth ploughing through the legalese). So, has there already been a formal notice that improvement is needed?
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2020, 03:23:08 pm »

Analysis from another source:

Quote
Why does a Conservative Transport Secretary feel under added pressure ‘to be seen to be doing something’ or ‘to give the illusion of doing something’?  Memo to Perm Sec, DfT: “My [new] ‘friends in the north’ are giving me grief!”
 
21 new MPs in North West, 12 of which are Cons gains from Lab.
9 new MPs in North East, 7 of which are ditto.
8 new MPs in Yorkshire, 7 of which are ditto.
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2020, 06:08:31 pm »

Two points to consider:

1) Much of the current woe is down to the DfT - insisting on new stock and picking fights with the unions over DOO whilst not ensuring that infrastructure improvements were made. So this could be a shot across the bows - you guys created this, I'm going to make you sort it out, no palming it off on local politicians or operators of last resort. Justification for Downing Street's big plan to shake up the Civil Service.
2) The Conservatives will have an eye on the May elections and want to put Burnham (et al) on the back foot.

On the basis of the second point, I'd also expect a fight to be picked with Sadiq over Crossrail and TfL's finances, but that's a whole other thread
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Celestial
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2020, 07:47:48 pm »

An alternative message from Grant Shapps on the Northern Rail situation.

"Northern Rail has been in a mess, ever since the nationalised Network Rail failed to electrify the lines to Blackpool and through Bolton on time. To cap a completely botched program, the failure to hand back the Blackpool line on time, resulting in drivers unexpectedly having to renew their route knowledge, which resulted in more disruption, around the time of the disastrous May 18 timetable change, also caused when timetable planners at Network Rail gave insufficient notice to Northern to enable rosters to be worked out. (That was catastrophic for Thameslink too, but we gave them more attention, as my Department is much more interested in making sure the South's trains run smoothly, as that's usually where we get all our votes from, 2019 excepted.)

Furthermore, my predecessor, in sitting on the T&W Application to improve the infrastructure along the Oxford Road corridor for two years, has meant the infrastructure that Northern would led to be in place isn't, resulting in some of the reliability issues that both Northern and TransPennine face. I'm still not going to approve it, but might ask for a further review by Network Rail which will kick it into the long grass for another year, by which time I might have got a decent job in the next reshuffle.

Industrial relations has been poor too, as a result of the obligation in the franchise which we put in to move to DOO operation, and which has led to numerous strikes. Not that we supported management during this period, as we wanted to make sure that they took all the blame for the disruption.

So, we're planning to renationalise the franchise, just as the last of the new trains come into service, enabling us to take credit for withdrawing the last of the hated Pacers, before finding an even more complex public/private partnership structure which will keep civil servants, lawyers and bean counters busy for the next ten years, until yet another restructure of the railways. Isn't privatisation great?"

 
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TonyK
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2020, 08:58:34 pm »

At the moment, under the current privatisation framework, Northern operate the trains the government specifies to the timetable drawn up by the government, along the routes "maintained" by the government, and with the DOO plans insisted on by the government. Isn't it just a little risky renationalising it? Because once the TUPE'd staff have got their new uniforms and signed up to the new pension scheme, would that signal an end to the dispute over DOO by either the government or the unions forgetting all about it? Doubt it. And won't anyone notice that the most antiquated and non-disability legislation compliant train left on the creaking network are the ones run by the government in the North it was going to save?

Grant Shapps may well want to embarrass Andy Burnham, but he starts at a disadvantage. All the transport under the control of Mayor Burnham through Transport for Greater Manchester works fine, and is steadily improving, with the imminent opening of yet another tram route. The Mayor has also been vocal in pointing out the Cinderella nature of the national rail network in his neck of the woods. He is certainly not as green as he is cabbage looking.
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2020, 07:50:21 am »

From City Metric

Quote
The source of Northern Rail’s problems isn’t the franchise holder: it’s the government

The article agrees that things are very wrong indeed at Northern, but goes on to point out that the same parent does pretty well with franchises like Chiltern, and blame should not be laid there to any major extent.

To lay blame personally at the door of Grant Shapps who only became secretary of state for transport on 24th July 2019 would also be incorrect - any involvement of his prior to last summer was only peripheral, to the extent of supporting the government in what it did with rail under his predecessors and the previous prime ministers.

A Secretary of State who looks to lay blame incorrectly and take credit and political advantage of the fruition of corrections that were in the pipeline before he took over shows himself as lightweight - a small man who whilst he can be worked with cannot, perhaps, be fully trusted.  I hope that where he takes such a position it's purely as "needs must" in the blare of publicity, and behind the scenes he's looking at prioritising the getting things right, rather than getting credited in his career for things becoming merely less shambolic short term under his guardianship.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 10:08:01 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2020, 07:30:17 pm »

A further long analysis from the Yorkshire Post

From deep within the text, I quote the section "strikes" and it's my highlighting.

Quote
Northern has been crippled by industrial action and an impasse in relations between the company and the RMT union, which represents rail staff.

The dispute originated over the role of train guards, which Northern could potentially make redundant as changes in technology reduce their necessity.

DfT targets are for half of future services to be controlled only by the driver, with no need for a conductor to be on board. The guards currently open the doors and ensure passenger safety.

Things came to a head at the end of 2018, when the RMT offered to suspend planned strikes in return for a guarantee that guards would remain, but on November 30 decided to continue with the walkouts.

The saga did not come to an end until February 2019. By this point, strikes had taken place every Saturday since late August 2018. The RMT are now satisfied that guards will be protected under the current franchise agreement.

Interesting choice of words and phrase in what's overall an article that seems pretty accurate.   Is there a suggestion there that should the Northern operation move away from the current franchise (by it to a contract or a nationalised operation) that the whole business of Driver Only Operation would raise its head again if the government chose to go that route?

I am very much aware that all this Northern talk is about what happens in 3 months time, and we have no announcement here as to what's to happen with GWR in 3 months time.
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TonyK
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2020, 01:54:08 pm »

Whatever happens, it looks as though the Christmas truce is over in the proxy war between the government and the rail unions.
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2020, 02:39:18 pm »

An analysis of current problems at Northern by Railfuture

Quote
The irony is that things will get better as the new trains come in and the peak of driver training commitment passes on Northern, so the real lessons may never be learned. A cynic might say that Mr Shapps will be told by his officials at DfT that a good “kick up the backside” solved it. This must not be allowed to happen as it would be deeply insulting to many of the people on Northern who are very capable and who have been dealt a rotten hand of cards to play, when the dealer was in many cases the DfT itself.

The cynic might put it another way.  That the current Arriva team have struggled to do what they can against great adversity - for sure not got it all right, but been dealt some bad cards.  Now that it's at the low point and looks like it's likely to get better - new trains at last, people trained and used to running it - the government can step in, let these improvements happen and claim the credit for themselves and their MPs.
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2020, 02:45:58 am »

It looks like the sh** may hit the fan on Wednesday with a widely [rumoured/expected] announcement of operation of Northern being transferred to the Operator of Last Resort (and if the underlying problems are not addressed/able by that operator, what happens?)

From The BBC an hour ago:

Quote
Northern Rail passengers have faced chaos since May 2018 when new timetables were introduced. This week a decision is expected from the government on whether the firm will lose its franchise over "unacceptable delays".

Taking Buckshaw Village as an example ... here is what one commuter (yes, he really is a commuter with a daily pair of journeys to and from his place of work) or several quoted has to say:

Quote
Ian Smith, 47, is a civil servant who lives in Buckshaw Village. He takes the early train every morning to Manchester Victoria.

Ian says he loves Buckshaw and its "fantastic facilities", but says the train service into Manchester is "lacking".
"We're running old trains," he says, "and for the money that you pay for a ticket to go to Manchester, I think the actual service is atrocious."

For Ian, the main issue is the late running of trains, which delays him arriving at work. He says the information on platforms and apps is incorrect.

"It puts you in a negative mood before you start your day," he says.
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2020, 09:11:35 am »

I’m afraid this one stinks of most of the problems being outside of Northern’s control but most of them set to be resolved soon. 

Bringing in an ‘operator of last resort’ now looks good for the government in that they can claim their actions have sorted out the problems, when in reality it would have sorted itself anyway, and no quicker than had they let it be.
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« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2020, 09:13:37 am »

I’m afraid this one stinks of most of the problems being outside of Northern’s control but most of them set to be resolved soon. 

Bringing in an ‘operator of last resort’ now looks good for the government in that they can claim their actions have sorted out the problems, when in reality it would have sorted itself anyway, and no quicker than had they let it be.

Another tick in the box for the New Northern Tory!
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