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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

TPE has ‘completely failed’ North East

TransPennine Express has “completely failed” passengers in the North East and should be put under new ownership, the North of Tyne mayor says.

Jamie Driscoll and other mayors from across the North have called on the Government not to renew First Group’s contract to run services across the region, ahead of the current deal’s expiration on 28 May.

The Labour mayors of West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool and North of Tyne have penned a joint letter to the transport secretary, Mark Harper, warning that renewing the contract would be “rewarding failure and be a betrayal of passengers in the North” after months of problems.

The Office of Rail and Road recently reported that TransPennine (TPE) cancelled 23.8% of its services for the four weeks to 4 March – which worsened from 7.2% when adjusted to include pre-cancellations due to a shortage of train crew.

TPE has been badly affected by a dispute that has led to drivers no longer volunteering to work paid overtime shifts.

Mr Driscoll told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had “lost count” of the number of TPE cancellations he had witnessed at Newcastle Central Station.

He added: “It’s the same story for many of our people up in the North East and it’s damaging our economy. TPE has promised to reduce cancellations, but they can’t even put a figure on it.

“TPE has completely failed the people of this region and don’t even have a credible plan for improving their performance. The government must not reward failure and instead strip TPE of the franchise. The people of the North East deserve so much better than this.”

In a joint statement issued on Monday(17 April), the five mayors said they were “concerned by suggestions that First Group may be awarded a contract extension and cannot see how this can possibly be justified”.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “Cancellations are now down by around 40% since our recovery plan was introduced. However, in order to further substantially reduce cancellations for customers and all those who depend on the North’s connectivity, we have been trying to secure an overtime pay deal with ASLEF for drivers who wish to volunteer for additional shifts.

“Restoring overtime working for drivers at TPE will in turn, if implemented and used in the same way as before, significantly accelerate training and reduce cancellations within days of the overtime deal being enacted, which is exactly what our customers need.”

The Department for Transport said that TPE’s recent service levels had been “unacceptable” and that “all options remain on the table”.

A spokesperson added: “We are working closely with train operators to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and long-term solutions are put in place for passengers, including the swift recruitment and training of new drivers.”

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