Our German railway! Because whatever a Northern train looks like in April 2016 or December 2019, it will likely say something like “Part of Arriva – a DB company”. You might possibly have seen that on our nice Grand Central trains that take us to London in such a (usually) trouble-free way. GC is another Arriva operation. And Arriva is a commercial subsidiary of (DB), the German state-owned railway. So pretty well all trains through Halifax and Brighouse will soon be part of “Our German railway”.
DB, through Arriva, is well established in UK passenger transport, mainly as a result of a series of takeovers. Rail franchises include Arriva Trains Wales and the less overtly branded Cross Country. Then there’s Chiltern Railways, who operate quality services out of London Marylebone to Oxford, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, and run what are surely the best-refurbished Mk 3 coaches. The London Overground concession is an equal partnership of Arriva and MTR Corporation (the latter 76% owned by the Hong Kong Government). Let’s not forget either the Tyne & Wear Metro, or Alliance Rail, younger open-access sibling of Grand Central. Arriva also operate numerous services in 13 other countries across mainland Europe (though interestingly not in Germany itself), so none can say that our new train operator is without experience. Arriva’s UK company HQ is in Sunderland. By the way if you see “DB Schenker” on the side of a red locomotive pulling a freight or engineering train, that’s another offshoot of the very same Deutsche Bahn!
Before the German takeover Arriva Trains North (ATN) ran our trains until the birth of Northern Rail in 2004. ATN had taken over the original north-east franchisee MTL; they refreshed image and marketing but ran into problems with staff and train shortages, and industrial disputes. DB didn’t buy Arriva until 2010; so the new company could be very different. Swerving political comment about foreign state ownership of privatised UK rail operations, we must wait and see whether there will be closer cooperation between corporate cousins Arriva Rail North and Grand Central. Currently Halifax and Brighouse enjoy cheap advance-purchase tickets on GC. Through Advance fares from other Northern stations via Grand Central to London could encourage more people from up the valley to connect with GC for London. Station facilities are already pretty well shared, it would appear.
Header image attribution: flickr photo by 47843 Vulcan https://flickr.com/photos/47843_vulcan/15941574467 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license