Rail operator Northern, criticised for its “dire service” looks set to be be stripped of its franchise, while fares across Britain are rising by an average of 2.7 per cent.

The past year has seen just over half of Northern services arrive at it stations on time, compared to the national average of 65 per cent. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was completely unacceptable to have trains not routinely running on time and said the Government was looking to either strip Northern of its franchise or give it a short-term contract.

Mr Shapps said: “I’m simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action.”

Last week it was revealed the rail operator – which operates on the Tyne Valley Line between Newcastle and Carlisle – could be split into a North West and North East franchise under proposed renationalisation plans, bringing the network into public ownership.

The existing franchise agreement with Northern was due to run until March, 2025.

However, Malcolm Chainey, chairman of the Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership, said the problems with Northern were down to Network Rail.

“Stripping Northern of its franchise will make no difference whatsoever,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea because it’s already in chaos, it’s just going to make that situation worse.”

“Grant Shapps is not going to be able to fix it by clicking his fingers.”

An annual rail fare increase last Thursday saw Northern tickets rise by 2.5 per cent.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: “Here we are again, another year, another decade, and passengers are facing another year of fare increases because we’ve got a failed system.”

Mr Chainey added: “The service was dire last year. There were large numbers of cancellations and people couldn’t trust it to make a return journey.”

David Brown, managing director at Northern, said the firm’s franchise had faced “unprecedented challenges” in recent years which were outside its control.

“The most significant of these is the ongoing, late delivery of major infrastructure upgrades,” he said.

“Arriva and Northern remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North’s railways and improving customers’ experience.”

A statement from the Department for Transport added: “We are taking action to ensure passengers in the North get a better service and we will provide an update in due course.”