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Wigan MP calls for railway to be renationalised

Lisa Nandy MP
Lisa Nandy MP

MP Lisa Nandy has called for one of Wigan’s key rail franchises to be brought back into public ownership - amid concerns over delays and overcrowded trains.

Wigan’s parliamentary representative has spoken out after sponsoring an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons condemning Northern Rail’s current performance levels.

But the operator has insisted that the government’s aborted electrification project for the north has thrown their plans off - and it has vowed to turn around their fortunes.

Ms Nandy has blasted the company, which is backed by German state rail giant Deutsche Bahn, for allegedly turning a deaf to both passengers and elected officials, as fares continue to creep up.

She said: “Ultimately I would like to see the railways brought back into public hands.”

Supporters of renationalisation have often cited the example of the East Coast mainline route, which is set to be transferred away from a joint Stagecoach and Arriva venture.

Ms Nandy added: “I would like to see the railways in the interests of people who use them, rather than for private profit.”

The Northern Rail motion has won cross-party support from the likes of former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, criticises “shortage of staff, over-reliance on rest day working and overtime, shortage of trained drivers and poor management planning resulting in frequent cancellations.”

Further opposition is also expressed at the controversial plans to impose driver-only trains on Northern services, with the MPs calling on the government to consider holding a public inquiry into the saga, before stripping them of the franchise.

Mr Farron, who represents Westmoreland and Lonsdale, has also launched his own onlined petition, calling for Northern’s franchise to be curtailed.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash added: “The crisis in Northern Rail has the exact same causes as that which infected Southern services.

“Namely greedy private train bosses trying run the railway at minimum costs and not caring about the consequences for passengers.

“They know that the government will prop them up come up what may.

“The MPs are also right to highlight the fact that Northern’s plans for driver-only trains exacerbate these problems and we fully support their call for an inquiry into the crisis in Northern services.”

Rail chiefs have claimed that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling “pausing” the wider electrification of the northern network last summer had affected their strategies.

And a spokesman for Northern said the current delays were being caused by the knock-on effect of driver shortages as a result of the electrification of the Blackpool line.

“We appreciate this is a far from ideal situation which is causing some customers frustration and disruption, which we’re sorry for.

“We can assure you that we’re doing everything possible to get back to the good level of service you expect and deserve,” added the spokesman.

The Wigan MP joined RMT protesters, last month, who demonstrated at Wigan Wallgate station as part of the long-running dispute between Northern and its staff over the threatened introduction of driver-only trains.

Union leaders have raised a number of security concerns over the anticipated move towards driver-only services, which have led to nearly 20 walkouts during 2017 and 2018 by workers.