northern ticket machines cyber attack

Cyber attack takes Northern Trains’ ticket machines offline

Image credit: northern

Self-service ticket machines operated by the Northern Trains rail franchise have been targeted by a ransomware attack which has taken many of them offline.

The ticketing system has been offline since last week while an investigation is being conducted, but Northern Trains said that these are the only machines affected.

The operator installed more than 600 new ticket machines across the network earlier this year as part of a £17m scheme to provide passengers with modern touch-screen machines at over 400 stations across the north of England. The servers that operate these ticket machines have now been impacted by the suspected cyber attack.

“This is the subject of an ongoing investigation with our supplier, but indications are that the ticket machine service has been subject to a ransomware cyber attack,” Northern said. It added that no customer or payment data had been compromised and that customers could still buy train tickets online.

Flowbird Transport Intelligence, the supplier of the ticket machines, said it had identified the cyber attack through its monitoring systems. “We immediately instigated our major incident procedure in order to protect other parts of the network and our checks have shown there has been no compromise to any personal data,” a spokesperson said.

Northern was previously operated by Arriva Rail North, but the private operator ran the network so incompetently, with expensive trains that often ran late to the chagrin of its passengers, that the government was forced to step in last year and effectively nationalise the line.

A Which? study in 2018 found that Arriva Rail North had the lowest rail franchise customer satisfaction in the UK, coming 30th out of 30, with a commuter customer satisfaction score of just 32 per cent.

The government was recently urged to boost funding for high-speed rail infrastructure in the North of England due to fears that the project could be scrapped.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) scheme – sometimes described as HS3 – aims to connect Northern cities via a high-speed east-west route. The proposed rail infrastructure would link Manchester to Leeds via Bradford and eventually extend to Newcastle and Hull.

However, recent reports have suggested that the government is considering scrapping those proposals in order to plough more funds into HS2, which has seen its overall estimated costs consistently balloon year after year. The Institute for Government suggests that in 2009, the UK government stated that the HS2 project would cost £37.5bn to complete. The most recent estimate from HS2 Ltd put the cost at more than double this amount, at around £78bn. Independent estimates put the estimated final cost higher still, at £110bn. 

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