By Tony Miles
SUGGESTIONS in the Sunday Telegraph on November 4 that Arriva is “locked in crisis talks with the Government” over the future of the Northern rail franchise and that it is trying to “renegotiate terms” have been strongly denied by the company.
The story, which was repeated in other news outlets, said the long-running industrial dispute over the future role of guards and the impact of the chaos which followed the May 2018 timetable change had “crippled” the finances of Northern.
According to the report, former Transport Minister Jo Johnson had answered a parliamentary question with the information that in the year to March 2018, the subsidy to Northern had risen from £279million the previous year to £282m.
This appeared to contrast with the announcement at the start of the franchise that the subsidy to Northern would fall every year. Mr Johnson’s answer also confirmed that after delivering a small premium payment in 2017, TransPennine Express had also received a subsidy in the year to 2018.
Responding to the story, a statement issued by a Northern spokesman said: “We are delivering on all of our commitments and are investing more than £600million to transform local rail in the North – with new trains, better stations, more services and faster journeys for our customers.
“This is the biggest investment into rail in the North in a generation. But the franchise has faced a number of exceptional circumstances, notably the on-going, late delivery of infrastructure upgrades. These delays were out of our control and have impacted growth in passenger numbers.
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