Transpennine Express taken under govt control
TPE’s contract will not be renewed or extended at the end of the month, meaning the company will work on an “operator of last resort” basis from 28 May.
Transport secretary Mark Harper made the announcement this morning.
The Department for Transport said that the decision follows “months of significant disruption and regular cancellations across Transpennine Express’s network, which has resulted in a considerable decline in confidence for passengers who rely on the trains to get to work, visit family and friends and go about their daily lives”.
Under Operator of Last Resort, services will run as normal with no changes to tickets, timetables or planned services with the Department committed to ensuring a seamless transition for passengers.
The DfT stressed that the decision is temporary and it is the government’s full intention that the service’s operation will return to the private sector.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham welcomed the news. In a social media post this morning, he said: “As Mayors, we have spoken up consistently for long-suffering rail passengers in the North. I am glad the government has listened.
“We will now work with them to restore trust in train services and build a railway people can rely on.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin also took to Twitter. She said: “It’s absolutely right that this is the end of the line for Transpennine Express. We’ve urged government to act for almost a year, as delays and cancellations damaged our economy and caused misery for commuters.”
Owned by First Group, TPE hols the franchise to run regional inter-city trains throughout the North of England and into Scotland, providing the main services linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Cleethorpes, York, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.
Working with the train operator, the DfT said that in recent months it has taken steps to improve services, instigating a recovery plan in February and meeting with local Mayors to discuss ways forward.
While it said that some improvements have been made, “it has been decided that to achieve the performance levels passengers deserve, and that the Northern economy needs, both the contract and the underlying relationships must be reset”.
The DfT said that in mitigation, TPE has faced problems beyond its control, including a backlog in recruitment and training, workplace reform and ASLEF’s decision to withdraw rest day working.
The secretary of state has asked the DfT to review services in the North to help drive efficiency and find better ways to deliver for passengers across the region, calling in addition for the Northern mayors and Transport for the North to engage. The Government continues to urge the union to call off upcoming strikes and the stop on rest day working.
Harper said: “In my time as Transport Secretary, I have been clear that passenger experience must always come first. After months of commuters and Northern businesses bearing the brunt of continuous cancellations, I’ve made the decision to bring Transpennine Express into Operator of Last Resort.
“This is not a silver bullet and will not instantaneously fix a number of challenges being faced, including ASLEF’s actions which are preventing Transpennine Express from being able to run a full service – once again highlighting why it’s so important that the railways move to a seven-day working week.
“We have played our part, but ASLEF now need to play theirs by calling off strikes and the rest day working ban, and putting the very fair and reasonable pay offer to a democratic vote of their members.”
The DfT has controlled London North Eastern Railway since 2018, when it replaced Virgin Trains East Coast, and has also directly operated the Northern franchise since 2020.