Sir David Crausby debates Northern Rail in Parliament
11 June 2018
This is an extract from Sir David Crausby’s debate on Northern Rail services in Westminster Hall on 6th June. Read the full version here.
Sir David Crausby (Labour MP for Bolton North East)
When I was elected 21 years ago, in 1997, our railways were still, in effect, publicly owned. The reality then was that the service was rubbish, and it had been rubbish for a very long time. John Major, the then Prime Minister, having starved the railways of investment, privatised them in indecent haste—I think he thought that would be his legacy; perhaps it is—just before he was forcefully expelled from office in the 1997 Labour landslide.
Northern is the trading name of Arriva Rail North, whose franchise began in April 2016. Provided that it does not walk away, we may suffer it until 2025. Arriva Rail North has been a disaster from day one. It has been in freefall ever since, and it does not deserve to be entrusted with the franchise for another day. In Greater Manchester, Northern trains call at 97 stations, which are used every day by a huge number of people, who depend on the service to go to work and education, as well as to enjoy their social and family lives.
The quality of those services is essential to the lives of thousands of families and has an enormous effect on the economy of the north. It is a very big deal. We must not allow the political argument about our transport deficiencies to descend into the Government automatically supporting all private transport providers and the Opposition automatically attacking them all. Regardless of our views about nationalisation and privatisation, Northern rail is failing.
Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Transport)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton North East (Sir David Crausby) on securing this important debate and giving us another opportunity to discuss the disruption on Northern rail services.
The Department is focused on ensuring, as rapidly as possible, that the industry restores reliability for passengers to acceptable levels. I assure passengers who have been affected that I share their frustration, and we have heard from hon. Members across the House about how their constituents have been affected in a number of completely unacceptable ways.
I echo my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s words of sympathy on Monday, as well as the apology that he gave to the House. That mirrored the apologies from the chief executives of Northern rail and Network Rail, as well as from train operators in other parts of the country, for everything that has gone wrong and for all the difficulties that have been caused to people in the north of England and other parts of the country.