Bosses at rail operator Northern have hit back after mounting speculation the company could be stripped of its franchise
The chiefs spoke out as it was revealed that delays to the delivery of its new Spanish-built trains would mean that the ageing Pacer trains would be in service in the North West for longer than expected.
Speculation over whether Northern will continue to run in the region prompted Transport for the North’s David Hoggarth to say last week: “Our view is that, in the event that the franchise was to become unsustainable, our absolute priority would be to put customers first and maintain continuity of services and we have shared our views with the Secretary of State for Transport.”
David Brown, managing director of Northern, confirmed that as a result of delays in the delivery of new trains from manufacturer CAF, it had “sought approval for a small number of Pacers to operate on a handful of routes in South/West Yorkshire and the North West for a few weeks into 2020.”
Mr Brown added: “It is on record that the Northern franchise has faced several material and unprecedented challenges in the last couple of years – many of which have been outside the direct control of Northern.
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“The most significant of these are the ongoing, late delivery of major infrastructure upgrades.
“These have obviously had a significant effect on the franchise plan agreed with government back in 2015.
Despite this, we are delivering on our franchise commitments including over 2,000 new services per week and delivering new trains and better stations worth £600m.
“We are well on the way to delivering our 101 new trains – twice the number we were asked to provide.
“Arriva and Northern remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North’s railways and improving our customers’ experience.”