A NORTH-EAST MP has joined North of England leaders in a renewed call for the government to strip a rail company of its franchise.

After 28,000 services cancelled and extended periods of strike action last year, the shadow secretary for transport and Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald joined the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Mayor of Liverpool Steve Rotheram in their calls for the government to intervene.

Northern, which is owned by Arriva UK Trains, currently has the franchise on the majority of routes across the North of England until 2025.

The franchise began in 2016, following a change of hands from Serco-Abellio, who had previously run the franchise since 2004.

On Wednesday, Mr McDonald branded the franchise as a ‘failure in every possible sense’, whilst the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said that he welcomed a firm that ‘could do a better job.’

The comments came as the North-West mayors said they were speaking ‘on behalf of the 4.3 million people they represented' following major disruption to services last year.

In a joint-statement, the mayors said Northern had ‘failed to deliver’ significant and sustained improvement in performance, 'failed to replace' the Pacer fleet, before claiming it was unlikely the trains would be replaced by the end of the year.

The statement also slammed Northern’s decision to reduce the number of carriages on its trains since December.

Echoing criticisms Mr McDonald said: “Labour metro mayors are absolutely right to call for the termination of the Northern Rail franchise, which was awarded by the last Conservative government.

The Northern Echo:

"The contract has been a failure in every possible sense with delayed and cancelled trains, new services not being delivered and the dreaded Pacer trains still in operation.

"Northern Rail passengers deserve better than this and they also deserve long overdue investment in the Northern Rail network."

Mr McDonald also said transport minister Chris Grayling needed to 'act immediately' to bring the franchise to an end.

Showing concerns, Mr Houchen said passengers were eager for the introduction of the newer trains. He said: "People want regular, affordable rail travel with carriages that aren’t falling to pieces.

The Northern Echo:

"If another company or publicly-owned body can show that they’ll do a better job, then they’ll always have my full support."

In response, Northern managing director David Brown said: “We agree the North deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers.

“The unacceptable disruption following the May 2018 timetable change was caused by delays in infrastructure projects out of our control.

"We have apologised to our customers for the pain this caused.

"We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services.

"Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for customers – including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.

"These improvements are still a work in progress – but we are making things better for our customers.

"We want and expect things to continue to improve.”