A SENIOR figure from a Cumbrian transport group has welcomed a Government announcement to finally reveal the fate of the troubled Northern rail franchise.

Steve Curl, deputy chair of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Transport and Infrastructure Strategy Group, attended a meeting with leaders from authorities across northern England at Transport for the North in Leeds on Wednesday.

The crunch talks between rail bosses and politicians come after months of mounting frustration by rail users in Cumbria and beyond with services ran by Northern rail and TransPennine Express.

Last month, a new timetable to coincide with the introduction of new trains for both providers brought further calamity and confusion across the region, resulting in dozens of cancellations – with reasons given ranging from driver sickness to technical problems.

The fresh wave of issues follows on from a summer of timetable chaos in 2018.

Following the meeting, the Government’s transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed he is evaluating options on the Northern rail franchise, with a decision to be announced at the end of the month.

Mr Curl said: “We welcomed rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s presence at the Transport for the North Board meeting.

“Along with colleagues from across the Northern Powerhouse, we have been calling for the restoration of reliable rail services across the network for almost two years now.

“It was therefore encouraging to hear the minister say that whatever arrangements replace the current franchise, they should be developed with input from Transport for the North. Our view is that passengers should be put first in all such decisions.

“Now, we welcome the announcement from the Department for Transport that a decision will be made by the end of January on the way forward for the Northern franchise.

“It remains our hope that rail passengers in the north will then finally start to experience improved services that over time will fully and reliably meet their needs for frequent, on-time train services with adequate capacity.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and the infrastructure manager Network Rail, said: “We know that the most important thing for passengers is reliable services and we’re sorry when this doesn’t happen.

“Northern are introducing thousands of new services and more than 100 new trains on their routes but the ongoing performance issues indicate that there are deeper issues that will not be addressed by a change of ownership.

“We want to work with government to drive forward meaningful reform of the railway, introducing an independent organising body and easier fares system that will deliver lasting benefits for everyone.”