RAIL services on routes operated by Northern are to be brought under public control, the Transport Secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps said he wants passengers to see “real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible”.

The Government-controlled Operator of Last Resort (OLR) will take over the Northern franchise on March 1.

German-based Arriva was due to run Northern until March 2025.

The OLR already runs services on the East Coast Main Line under the LNER brand, following the failure of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise.

Mr Shapps said: “For too long, millions of rail passengers in the north of England have not had that. They have had to start and end their working day facing cancellations and delays. Some stations, particularly on Sundays, have been left without trains for hours on end.

“It’s no surprise that passengers have lost trust in the north’s rail network. The service provided by the rail network in the north has failed to meet the needs of passengers. People across the north deserve better, their communities deserve better and I am determined to achieve that.

“This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning. Northern’s network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right. Nonetheless, I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible.

“The roll out of new trains that’s already begun under Northern will continue and in Yorkshire, Pacers will be gone by the spring and next year, we will move electric trains from elsewhere on the network to the north, boosting capacity for commuters into Manchester and Leeds.

“We know overcrowding is a problem. To ensure we are deploying the trains in the right place to meet demand, we will be trialling new technology to identify crowding pinch points. We will also be extending platforms at 30 stations on the Northern network to allow for longer trains.

“We will also be making sure that every journey is made on a train fit for passengers: all Northern’s trains will be deep-cleaned and we will review the cleaning pattern to make sure the first and last passengers travel on trains in the same condition.

“The action we’re taking today is in no way a reflection on Northern’s dedicated and hard-working staff. Staff have had an incredibly tough job to do in challenging circumstances. I want to reassure them that their jobs are safe and they will be transferred to the public-sector operator on their existing terms and conditions. I recognise that many of the staff facilities are not up to scratch and have asked the public-sector operator to look closely at making improvements.

“I would also like to be clear that the only differences passengers should notice is services gradually starting to get better. All tickets, including season tickets, will still be still valid.”

Transport for the North welcomed the news and Barry White, Chief Executive, said: “Our hard-pressed passengers have been calling for action for some time – as have our members. Now, at last, we have the chance of a fresh start. Action has been taken and we can move forward. This new initiative must put passengers first and provide a reliable rail service that rebuilds trust that has been lost.”

He added: “In addition to this change, essential infrastructure is needed to reach the levels of performance and reliability we need, and we now need to see early commitment to this and accelerated delivery from Government.”

Barry said the move provides “a bridge to a better, longer term solution that works for the North” and marks “the start of a journey.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said: “Northern Leaders have long called for Government to take action to restore passenger confidence, so I welcome today’s long overdue decision to remove the Northern Rail franchise from Arriva.

“This decision represents an opportunity to restore some stability and reliability to services in the short term but will not address the fundamental issues affecting the North’s rail network.

“The North will only have the modern reliable service we need and deserve with fundamental reform to the way track and trains are managed along with investment to address the capacity crisis on the network. We need the Government to urgently publish the Williams Review and commit to devolution of powers and money that create meaningful local accountability.”

Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva's UK Trains division, said "largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable".

The problems faced by the firm included delayed and cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged industrial action.

Mr Burchell claimed the company had "helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network", but added: "A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government's decision today."