IS the Government about to strip Northern of its rail franchise?

The Transport secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that he had started the process that could result in the firm losing its right to run services, calling its service “completely unacceptable”.

Mr Shapps said: “I’m simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action.”

Thousands of passengers in West Yorkshire fed up with cancelled trains, poor punctuality and grim travelling conditions, will be asking: “What took you so long.”

Especially in the wake of the 2.7 per cent fares increase which came into force yesterday.

Northern’s record is grim reading: in November the company said less than half of its trains arrived on time (or less than a minute late). That’s the worst result since the chaos caused by the introduction of a new timetable in summer 2018.

But will a new operator do a better job? After all, Arriva’s other flagship rail franchise - Chiltern - is one of the UK’s best performers.

So what makes Northern so bad?

Certainly the poor state of the rolling stock has to shoulder some of the blame - the T&A has been a long-time critic of Northern’s Pacer fleet - but so does the lamentable condition of the rail infrastructure. The state of the track and the signalling play a big part in making Northern’s services so unreliable.

If the Government is serious about improving the lot of commuters in West Yorkshire it needs to do more than just waving a big stick at Northern Rail.

Service improvements need to go hand-in-hand with infrastructure upgrades.