UK set to end Arriva's Northern rail franchise-minister

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will bring to an end the Northern Rail franchise run by Deutsche Bahn’s Arriva due to its “completely unacceptable” performance, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Thursday.

Shapps told BBC TV he was no longer willing to tolerate the high level of delays and cancellations suffered by rail customers in the north of England. “I’m simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action,” he said.

Asked if that meant he would strip Northern of the franchise he said: “(That is) absolutely the case. I do not think that the service being operated on Northern … is anywhere near acceptable.”

Britain’s model of grouping rail routes into franchises that are run by private operators for a set number of years has been attacked by passengers, unions and politicians, who have said it results in expensive and unpredictable service.

The government has had to take over the running of some lines in recent years after private companies failed to turn a profit.

Northern, which operates services throughout the north of England, has had to apologize for late running and canceled trains, and problems with introducing new timetables.

Arriva won the franchise in 2015 to run the service until 2025, helped by a promise to deliver new and refurbished trains, more services, improved stations and options for lower fares.

No one from the company was immediately available to comment.

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