Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram have urged the government to terminate the Northern rail franchise.
The operator has been accused of failing to deliver promised improvements, including deteriorating punctuality, poor customer service and ineffective management of services following timetable changes last year.
The two mayors stated that Northern, a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains, has failed to deliver its legally binding franchise requirements.
They are now asking the Department for Transport to intervene and appoint a new board and directorial team to run the franchise.
Burnham said: “They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened. Train services across Greater Manchester and the north-west remain unreliable and overcrowded.
“Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.”
Northern has admitted to lapses in standards of services but rejected the calls to surrender the franchise.
Northern managing director David Brown told The Guardian: “We agree the north deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers.”
He added that timetable issues last year were due to delays in infrastructure projects. Since then, the franchise has made multiple improvements, including the introduction of new services.
Rail unions welcomed the mayors’ demand and have said that the franchise must be brought under public ownership.
Northern began operating the franchise in April 2016 and is slated to continue till 2025, with the option of a one-year performance-based extension.