Skip to content


What is happening now?

In December 2015 the Department for Transport (DfT) awarded the Northern franchise to Arriva. The new contract began on 1 April 2016, under the name Northern, and will run for nine years.


Between December 2004  and March 2016 these services were operated by Northern Rail, owned by Serco and Abellio. In June 2014 the DfT opened a competition to find an operator from 2016. Abellio, Arriva and Govia were the shortlisted bidders.

Our role in the franchising process

In 2012 we commissioned qualitative research to understand passenger views about Northern and TransPennine Express services. We used this and other research, including the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), to inform our discussions with the DfT about passenger needs from the franchise. We also used it as part of our response to the TransPennine Express and Northern franchise consultation published in August 2014.

We worked with DfT and Rail North on the development of a service-specification regime that places passenger interests at its heart and made proposals for an enhanced role and targets for the NRPS in the new franchise.

We provided advice to the DfT on the bidders’ delivery plans for the Customer Experience elements of the tenders. Having held discussions with all the shortlisted bidders during their bid development, we continued working with Arriva on their policies and plans as they mobilised for the franchise.

Our ongoing work

Now the new franchise is in operation we continue to use our rail research to ensure that it has passenger priorities at its heart. Key to this are the NRPS results that are presented and discussed with Northern, highlighting areas that need improvement. We also hold meetings to discuss performance, both on a regular and proactive basis and to react to any poor performance.

We continue our statutory role in helping passengers with their unresolved rail complaints. Where a passenger has been unable to resolve their complaint directly with Northern we work with them to achieve a better outcome for the passenger. We use the information from these ‘appeal’ complaints to help Northern understand the root causes of unresolved complaints and continuously improve the customer service they provide.

To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:

NRPS                                                                  Data Explorer                                                                     

Transport Focus reports and publications

 December 2015  Transport Focus response to the Northern and TransPennine award announcement
August 2014 Passenger Focus response to the TransPennine Express and Northern franchise consultations
May 2014 Passenger Focus presentation to potential bidders for the Northern franchise
October 2013 Passenger Focus submission to DfT on the Northern franchise direct award
December 2012 Research into passenger views of Northern and TransPennine Express rail services

Click here for key Department for Transport publications

Related content

Latest news

Compensation for delays of 15 minutes – Transport Focus responds

Find out more
Latest publication

Improving stations: improving passenger satisfaction

Find out more
Latest post

Rail passengers, ‘Delay Repay’ and improved compensation

Find out more