NORTHERN Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has rejected Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham's call for the nationalisation of the region's train operator.

The Labour civic leader and his Merseyside counterpart Steve Rotherham told Transport Secretary Chris Grayling that Northern should be taken into public ownership after serious performance and punctuality failures in the past year after timetable changes.

Their call was backed by Labour MPs for Blackburn and Burnley Kate Hollern and Julie Cooper.

However Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans said stripping the company of its franchise would not solve local problems despite criticising its performance.

Northern operates the East Lancashire Line from Preston through Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley to Colne and the route from Clitheroe to Darwen and Manchester.

Rossendale and Darwen MP Mr Berry said yesterday: "My absolute priority is delivering the services that passengers expect and deserve. We have seen much needed improvements since last year

"As metro-mayors, both the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Merseyside co manage the Northern rail franchise with the government. Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham have the power to seek to terminate the franchise if they see fit.

“But at time when performance is improving and brand-new trains are being rolled out to replace the unpopular and dated Pacers, nationalising the service would result in even more disruption and a huge bill for the tax-payer, that's the last thing we need."

Mr Graying's spokesman has also rejected the proposal.

Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones said: "The railways need to be brought under public control.

"There's an opportunity to public ownership models including co-operatives and mutuals and empowering the rail user."