Arriva has taken over Northern Rail services, pledging 281 new carriages and free wi-fi within three years, more than 2,000 extra services, new through-journeys across Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield and longer trains.
But the day began with two cancellations on the busy Ilkley to Leeds route - and by lunchtime a “signalling problem” at Rotherham was causing delays of up to 20 minutes between Sheffield and Swinton, with some services diverted.
Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva’s UK trains division, said the day market the start of a “journey towards a complete transformation in services”.
He added: “ Throughout the term of the franchise we will be injecting a multimillion-pound investment to deliver a step-change in quality and are excited to now have the opportunity to start delivering on our promises to passengers.
“We are investing in new and refurbished trains, journeys will be improved through refreshed networks and timetables, and our trains will offer more capacity and comfort.”
Travellers may not immediately notice the changeover - the Northern name will remain but the logo will change.
Unions complained that Arriva is a subsidiary of Germany’s nationalised Deutsche Bahn, so profits would go back to Germany.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union leader Mick Cash said: “It may be April Fool’s Day but it is no joke for railways across the North to have their services set up for plundering by Deutsche Bahn at the expense of investment here in the UK. It makes a total mockery of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse nonsense.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “Arriva has promised to expand and improve services for passengers and we will be holding them to those promises.
“But don’t be fooled into thinking Deutsche Bahn are in business in Britain for our benefit when their objective is to make profits out of British commuters so they can subsidise fares at home.”