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

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the firm's poor performance, with trains regularly arriving late or not at all, 'cannot continue' when he appeared before a House of Commons committee.

Yesterday Bolton MPs Sir David Crausby and Chris Green welcomed the news that he was ready to act over poor service and timekeeping on the network since a botched timetable change in May last year.

Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Mr Shapps said: "As a fellow long-suffering commuter, I entirely believe we cannot carry on just thinking it is OK for trains not to arrive, or Sunday services not to be in place. That has to change."

He said had issued a 'request for proposals' from the firm and was considering an Operator of Last Resort - a temporary renationalisation of the franchise as has happened with the East Coast mainline between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh.

The Department for Transport confirmed it was developing contingency plans for the replacement of the current franchise 'with either a new short-term management contract with Northern or the Operator of Last Resort'.

Sir David, Labour MP for Bolton North-East, said: "About time too.

"This is what I have been calling for since I held a debate about Northern's timetable chaos in July last year.

"Northern has completely gone off the rails.

"The company's performance has been unacceptable since the chaos of the new timetable in May 2018.

"What is need is not a temporary renationalisation but the permanent return of the franchise to public ownership. It cannot be any worse than what we have got now."

Mr Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West, said: "Many my constituents face a very difficult rail commute.

"Northern's performance has been unacceptable and I am glad that the government is now looking at action to deal with its problems."

David Brown, Northern's managing director, said the firm had faced challenges outside its direct control in the last two years.

He said: "We remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North's railways."