Whistleblower prompts call for Northern trains inquiry

Northern train
Image caption Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for an investigation into Northern

Greater Manchester's mayor has called on the government to investigate claims that train operator Northern knew about "likely" cancellations in advance.

Andy Burnham said a whistleblower has also alleged the firm is choosing to pay fines for cancelled services rather than employ staff on rest days.

It comes after a series of public exchanges in which the mayor has criticised Northern's "unacceptably poor" service.

Northern has denied the allegations.

'Very worrying'

An internal email, provided by an anonymous Northern employee and published by Mr Burnham, allegedly identified a number of services which "are likely to be cancelled".

The mayor said the allegations "appear to contradict" Northern's public claims that it did not plan cancellations in advance.

"If true, these revelations are very worrying. It now looks like Northern have simply not been straight with the Greater Manchester public," Mr Burnham said.

Image copyright Andy Burnham

The whistleblower also alleged that Northern pulled out of an agreement with drivers around payment for working on rest days, leading to a shortage of staff.

Despite being fined for the number of cancelled services, the company had still benefited as a result, it was claimed.

"A situation where imposed fines are more lenient than the cost of the company doing actually their job would be a farce," said Mr Burnham.

Allegations denied

In a letter to the transport secretary Chris Grayling, the mayor said these "serious allegations ... warrant further investigation".

On Wednesday, he also wrote to Transport for the North criticising Northern for delays, overcrowding and cancellations on its services.

A spokesman for Northern said the company "did not cancel any agreement" on driver's rest days and denied that any services had been cancelled to save money.

"Northern put forward a formal proposal to [train driver's union] Aslef to continue with rest-day working, but the two parties were not able to reach agreement," he said.

"There is no list of pre-planned train cancellations, we cancel trains with great reluctance, and never for financial reasons," the spokesman said.

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