THE government is considering the temporary renationalisation of the Northern rail franchise.

The firm operates the East Lancashire Line from Blackpool to Colne through Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley and services to Clitheroe and Manchester.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps condemned Northern’s poor performance, with trains regularly arriving late or not at all when he appeared before a House of Commons committee.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council deputy leader and Transport for the North board member, welcomed the news the Cabinet minister was ready to act over poor service since a botched timetable change last summer.

Mr Shapps told the Transport Committee he had issued a ‘request for proposals’ from the firm and was considering an Operator of Last Resort (OLR) - the temporary renationalisation of the franchise.

His department confirmed it was developing contingency plans for the replacement of the franchise ‘with either a new short-term management contract or an OLR’’.

Cllr Riley said: “Northern’s performance has been inadequate. It has improved but is still not good enough. The government is right to look at options to improve it.”

David Brown,Northern’s managing director, said the firm had faced challenges outside its control including late-running infrastructure projects. He said: “We are delivering the biggest transformation of rail for a generation.”