Under-fire Northern rail owner calls turns to Hanbury for help
Northern Rail has been condemned by MPs over widespread cancellations, disruption and delays.
The company that runs the cancellation-plagued Northern rail franchise has called in Hanbury Strategy.
Arriva UK Trains has turned to the Tory-led agency for help as it deals with the political fall-out from widespread rail disruption in the north of England and pushes ahead with a bid to operate the next East Midlands rail franchise from August 2019.
Arriva runs four rail franchises and two rail contracts that cover 22 per cent of the entire network, as well as the UK’s first modern light rail service.
Last month Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the emergency trains timetable imposed by Arriva-owned Northern Rail represented the “last chance saloon” for the operator and local MPs also piled in.
“Let’s be honest, this level of incompetence should see heads roll in both government and Northern Rail,” said Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds. His colleague James Frith said: “The secretary of state’s stalled response on this shows he’s on completely the wrong track entirely. They both need retiring to the shed if they don’t turn it round sharpish.”
Two weeks later rail bosses including David Brown, managing director of Arriva Rail North, were hauled before the Commons transport select committee and grilled about five weeks of widespread cancellations, disruption and delays.
Brown described having to fit a 40-week timetabling exercise into 16 weeks after Network Rail announced in January it would not complete the electrification of the Manchester to Bolton line — one of Northern’s principal routes — by May. He conceded that he should have told the Department for Transport about the likely disruption, but said its scale was not apparent until the last minute.
Compensation schemes have since been announced for season ticket holders affected by rail disruption in the north of England.
Now Arriva has called in Hanbury to provide “strategic communications advice” with the contract initially running for six months. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments has given agency boss Ameet Gill to green light to work for the client subject to the usual restrictions.
Gill, a former adviser to David Cameron in Number 10, set up Hanbury in 2016 with fellow ex-Tory adviser Paul Stephenson.
The Arriva account is the second big win for Hanbury in recent weeks after PAN reported that the agency had been called in by ComCast, the US cable giant bidding to take over Sky.