Northern and my mission to transform rail services here - Grant Shapps

FOR far too long, millions of rail passengers across the North of England have been badly let down.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has returned Northern to public control.

Cancellations, delays, overcrowding and unreliability mean passengers simply lost trust in Northern.

This paper and others called for the Government to take action, and for the rail crisis to end.

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From yesterday, Northern started a new beginning.

Northern rail services are now controlled by the DfT after Arriva was stripped of its franchise.

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Northern trains under Government control from today

The Government operator took over running services on the network and is providing people across the North with a greater say over their regional railways.

This paper has written that this is not a cause for celebration, but just another milestone in a tortuous journey for passengers.

It is our job as government to make sure that we use this milestone to ensure your journey starts getting better, from day one.

Grant Shapps is the Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister.

Those commuting today will hopefully begin to notice the small immediate improvements we’ve made where we can – from deep cleaning all trains across the network and improving on-board cleanliness, to continuing to roll out new trains.

We’re also finishing off a programme of extending platforms at stations across the network, allowing for longer trains with more carriages and seats, and we’re targeting overcrowding by trialling technology to identify and combat pinch points.

This is a new beginning, but it is just the beginning, and I want to be clear that there will be no magic cure for Northern.

Transformation is a process not an overnight event, and some changes – like infrastructure upgrades – will inevitably take more time.

So I have asked the leadership of the operator to prepare a comprehensive plan during its first 100 days of running the network to ensure they are absolutely focused on delivering for passengers.

Northern entering government control is clearly a big moment for rail in the UK, and a moment I take extremely seriously as part of my role as the member of Cabinet with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse.

I won’t be driven by ideology, just what is best for passengers and people in this region.

I may be Transport Secretary but I know this role is not just about rail, or transport alone.

It’s about dismantling the odds that have been unfairly stacked against the North and giving back to them the economic benefits they’ve brought the rest of Britain.

It’s also about giving the North more powers, so they have a greater say over the decisions that affect them.

That’s why we have launched a panel of stakeholders that will advise the Government’s operator on Northern, putting passengers and local leaders at the heart of the new system going forward.

The mayors of Greater Manchester, Tees Valley and Liverpool will join leaders of Cheshire West and Leeds Council, as well as passenger representatives, community railways and industry leaders.

They will provide a voice for people across the North, as the new operator works to understand and solve the systemic problems that will enable Northern to deliver the services passengers truly deserve.

Realising the potential of the Northern Powerhouse and levelling up the whole country is front and centre of this Government’s agenda.

The railways were invented in the North of England. Now we want to reconnect them with its people and deliver services they can rely on.

I’ll work tirelessly to achieve this.

Grant Shapps is the Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister.