'No quick fix' as Northern comes under public ownership


Struggling Northern Trains has moved into public ownership with a new managing director but a new job for the old one.


New boss Nick Donovan (pictured) is the independent chair of the Network Performance Board and led TransPennine Express from 2011-2015.

For the last two years, he has been advising the ScotRail Alliance on train service performance and previously worked on ‘making the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail’.

The Government took over the running of services across the Northern network from Sunday (1 March 2020).

The Department for Transport said that tackling overcrowding on Northern’s network will be a priority.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘This is new era for rail in the North, but there will be no quick fix for the network as we build solutions for the future.

‘Today marks the beginning of rebuilding of trust in these services, and voices from the region will be essential as we work together to understand and deliver the improvements passengers need.’

The government operator has also launched a panel ‘to provide ongoing advice on how services will be run’.

Political leaders including Andy Burnham from Manchester and Judith Blake from Leeds will be joined by regional leaders, passenger representatives and industry leaders on the panel, which will be led by Richard George, the chairman of the operator.

Robin Gisby, chairman of Northern Trains and CEO of the public sector operator, DOHL, said: ‘Our priority over the coming weeks will be to stabilise performance whilst continuing to deliver existing projects including the introduction of new trains.

‘Over the next 100 days, we will push forward with a widespread review of the business and its operations to ensure that we can and will deliver the improvements that Northern’s passengers deserve.’

Mr Gisby said he had asked former Northern managing director David Brown to move across to the holding company ‘where we can explore other senior level opportunities and retain his skills and experience’.

The Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort Holdings Limited (DOHL) was established to fulfil the Government’s requirements to maintain the continuity of customer rail services if a rail franchise terminates.

It already operates train services on the East Coast Mainline through its subsidiary, LNER, since taking ownership from Virgin Trains in 2018. Mr Gisby is also chair of LNER.

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