I REALISE I am a little late to the ‘complaining about Northern Rail’ party and battle-hardened commuters – those who have campaign medals from the great timetable fiasco war – may see me as something of an arriviste.

I would accept that criticism. I don’t commute every day and I haven’t been doing it for that long. And I accept I haven’t suffered the absolute worst that Northern can do.

But I am still handing over a significant amount of my hard-earned cash every week to Northern.

What do I get in return, you may ask. Well, some mornings I’m crammed on to a train that doesn’t have enough carriages, or maybe I elect to let that one go and get the ‘stopper’ that’s due into Manchester in plenty of time for me to get to work but has never, once, managed to be punctual.

Coming home, it’s exactly the same, but in reverse. If I’m ‘lucky’, I can shoehorn myself into a space that doesn’t really exist on the ‘fast’ train but at least I get back to Warrington relatively quickly, which is a mercy in itself after having to stand all the way. Or I can get the ‘stopper’ again and get home late.

But there may be a solution in sight and it comes in the very unlikely shape of the government’s transport secretary Grant Shapps who is talking about re-nationalising the Northern franchise.

Shapps told the Commons transport select committee that first steps had been taken towards taking the Northern rail network back into public hands. He said he had asked the Northern franchisee, the German-owned Arriva, and the government’s operator of last resort to draw up proposals to improve the service.

Highlighting that barely one in two Northern trains ran on time, Shapps said: “I consider that it cannot continue delivering in the current delivery method.”

He added: “I entirely believe we cannot carry on thinking it is ok for trains not to arrive, or Sunday services not to be in place – that simply has to change.”

And Shapps has some pretty powerful backing. Step forward Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, who said: “After months of misery it is a relief for us to hear government finally accept what we’ve been saying repeatedly, that things can’t carry on as they are.

“Northern passengers will agree with the transport secretary that the current situation of unreliable, overcrowded trains cannot continue. Grant Shapps should now accelerate plans to terminate the Northern franchise and bring in an operator of last resort.”

As the Guardian says: Northern has been beset by problems, including a breakdown in industrial relations, and suffered more than most networks after the botched introduction of a new timetable in May 2018. While Network Rail, the owner and operator of Britain’s rail infrastructure, accepted much of the immediate blame for engineering delays and the rescheduling process, Northern has failed to restore punctuality this year.

Yes, I can testify to Northern’s failure to restore punctuality. The simple fact is if I could trust it to run its trains on time, I could have an extra half an hour in bed.

  •  I was interested and intrigued to see that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to write to the EU to ask for a Brexit extension after losing vote on the Letwin amendment in Parliament on Saturday.

I was given to understand he would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than send that letter but it looks like that’s another promise he doesn’t intend to keep. I suppose he believes the fact he didn’t sign the letter lets him off the hook. I’m not sure it does and we can add this to the list of broken promises.

I will concede there is a lot to be said for being anonymous when putting pen to paper. As I know full well.