Rail protesters in Yorkshire demand Northern rail services stay in public control

Rail passenger groups, union leaders and politicians are staging protests across Yorkshire today demanding that the Government keeps Northern rail services under public control.

Monday, 2nd March 2020, 9:46 am
Updated Monday, 2nd March 2020, 2:30 pm

The franchise was taken away from Arriva Rail North on Sunday after complaints about the poor level of service.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the franchise had "collapsed" after years of "mismanagement" by successive private train operators.

The union said it believed the forthcoming Williams Review into how the railways are run could move Northern back into the private rail sector within weeks.

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RMT officials will join politicians, passengers and campaigners at train stations across the North today to send a "clear message" to the Government that the private franchise model is "broken" and should be replaced by an integrated, publicly owned railway.

Protests are taking place outside railway stations in Leeds, Wakefield, York and Sheffield.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Private speculators have driven Northern Rail to the brink and its return to public ownership, joining the East Coast Main Line, should not be seen as a short-term fix whilst we wait to see what scheme this Government comes up with next.

A Northern train rolls through the North Yorkshire countryside. Pic: PA

"This has to be a permanent move followed up with the investment and planning needed to deliver the rail services that passengers deserve after years of privatised chaos."#

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “For years, passengers have been forced to put up with a woeful service from the privatised Northern Rail.

“After finally taking action following much dither and delay, it would be a backwards step for the Government to pass Northern’s services straight back into private hands."

Ellen Lees, campaigns officer at We Own It, said: "The calamity of Northern Rail is all the evidence you need to see just how disastrous privatisation has been on our railway.

"They've caused misery for passengers and it's a huge relief that their services will now be in public hands. It's vital that Northern stays public now, to avoid causing further disruption to passengers.

"But Northern aren't the only ones. From South Western to West Midlands Trains, franchises are collapsing up and down the country. It's time to face reality - we'll only fix our broken railway by bringing it all into public ownership".

Ellie Harrison, of Bring Back British Rail, said: "We need a world-class, fully integrated public transport network which everyone can afford to use, in order to address the climate emergency and tackle chronic inequalities across our country.

"Public ownership and control of all elements of the network (rail, bus and more) is vital for delivering this and ensuring passengers always come before profit."

Emily Yates, co-founder of the Association of British Commuters, said: "Rail franchising is collapsing all over the UK due to toxic relationships between government and private companies.

"There is now a great danger that we will see these same toxic relationships dictate transport policy into the future, via the completely unscrutinised Williams Review.

"Northern passengers deserve a transparent and accountable system going forward, which means democratic public ownership with passenger and worker representation at its heart."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have asked the Government's operator to prepare a 100-day plan to ensure we leave no stone unturned in delivering real and tangible improvements for passengers.

"We are also clear that we will look to provide local leaders with more powers over local services, timetables, fares and stations, to provide more control over their railways.

"This franchise underlines how the franchising model needs to change, which is why the Williams Review is looking at reforms across the railway to ensure passengers are put first."