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Northern Rail must be renationalised permanently, say trade unions, protesters and politicians

WORKERS, passengers and politicians will stage protests on Monday to demand that the government keeps Northern Rail under public control after it receives taxpayer-funded upgrades.

The chaotic franchise was temporarily taken back into public ownership and management today.

In coming months, £600 million in taxpayers’ cash will be spent restoring the Northern network to some kind of normality after the years of cancellations, delays, overcrowding, ramshackle rolling stock and other problems while profiteering privateers have been in charge.

New rolling stock, increased capacity, longer platforms for longer trains, more electric trains, “deep cleaning” of trains and other improvements are promised, which is good news for long-suffering Northern passengers.

But once efficiency and profitability have been restored — at public expense — the franchise, the biggest and most heavily subsidised in Britain, will be handed back to privateers, just as East Coast services were reprivatised after they were restored at public expense.

This morning, rail workers and disgruntled passengers will be protesting at nine stations with the demand: “Keep Northern public.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of rail union RMT, 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 while we wait to see what scheme this government comes up with next.

“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.”

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

Ellie Harrison of the Bring Back British Rail group 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.

“We cannot allow Northern to be reprivatised.”

Ellen Lees, campaigns officer at the We Own It public ownership group, 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.”

Northern Rail was formerly operated by Arriva Rail North, a subsidiary of German state rail company Deutsche Bahn.

In January, Tory Transport Minister Grant Shapps admitted that Arriva’s chaotic performance could be tolerated no longer, and he stripped Arriva of the franchise.

In response to Northern Rail returning to public control, a Department for Transport spokesman said: “This franchise underlines how the franchising model needs to change, which is why the [government-commissioned] Williams Review  is looking at reforms across the railway to ensure passengers are put first.”

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