STRUGGLING rail company Northern will be taken into government hands, the transport minister has announced.

The troubled firm has battled a number of issues over the last few years causing long term disruption for passengers.

The franchise will be stripped from current owners Arriva on March 1.

Grant Shapps announced the decision today following months of deliberations on the future of transport in the region.

It means services will be run by the Operator of Last Resort, which is managed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Mr Shapps said: "It’s no surprise that passengers have lost trust in the North’s rail network. The service provided by the rail network in the north has failed to meet the needs of passengers.

"People across the north deserve better, their communities deserve better and I am determined to achieve that."

He added: "This is a new beginning for Northern, but it is only a beginning. Northern's network is huge and complex, some of the things which are wrong are not going to be quick or easy to put right.

"Nonetheless, I am determined that Northern passengers see real and tangible improvements across the network as soon as possible."

This Is Lancashire:

The transport secretary went on to confirm that the roll-out of new trains onto the network will continue, with the controversial Pacer trains to be removed from service in Bolton "very soon".

All tickets, including season passes, will continue to be valid despite the change of ownership.

Staff will also retain their jobs on the same terms and conditions that they are currently on.

The decision has been applauded by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham who released a statement alongside Liverpool mayor Steve Rotherham.

It said: “Today’s news is a victory for passengers who have had to endure almost two years of misery and mayhem on Northern Rail.

“We are pleased the government has finally answered our call and returned the Northern franchise to public ownership. But today’s welcome move by ministers is only the start of fixing the North’s railways.

“The government must now commit to investing in much-needed rail infrastructure and work with leaders across the North to deliver the vision and funding needed to build the modern transport network that the people of our region deserve.”

In a tweet, Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi added: "About time! Northern Rail should have been stripped of its contract years ago over its abysmal performance record.

"Government's refusal to do so has caused massive inconvenience for rail passengers and damage to our region’s economy."

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In response to the loss of the franchise, Chris Burchell, managing director or Arriva UK Trains, said: "We had a clear vision for the Northern franchise that would better connect the cities of the North with more frequent, reliable and modern services and unlock economic growth.

"It was clear however that, largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable. A new plan is needed that will secure the future of Northern train services. As such, we understand the government's decision today."