The Government has announced today (11th May) that the contract for Transpennine Express will not be renewed or extended at the end of the month, bringing the company into Operator of Last Resort from 28th May.
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.
The Government and the train operating company had taken steps to improve services, putting the operator on a recovery plan in February and meeting with local Mayors to discuss a way forward.
While some improvements have been made over the past few months, 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.
A spokesperson for the Government said; “While making the decision to bring Transpennine Express into Operator of Last Resort, the Department recognises that a significant number of problems facing Transpennine Express stem from matters out of its control.
“These include a backlog of recruitment and training drivers, reforming how the workforce operates and most notably, ASLEF’s decision to withdraw rest day working – preventing drivers from taking on overtime shifts and filling in gaps on services. The decision to bring Transpennine Express into the control of the Operator of Last Resort is temporary and it is the Government’s full intention that it will return to the private sector.
“In light of this, today’s decision will not instantaneously resolve the challenges being faced on the lines but will provide an opportunity to reset relationships between the operator, staff, trade unions and passengers. As part of this and in response to stakeholders’ calls for action, the Transport Secretary has asked Department for Transport to review services in the North to help drive efficiency and find better ways to deliver for passengers across the region. He also asks all interested parties, including the Northern Mayors and Transport for the North, to engage with the Government on this work.
“The Government continues to urge the union to call off upcoming strikes and the rest day working ban. ”
Transport Secretary, Mark 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 needs 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.”
Responding to the government’s announcement that it will not renew Transpennine Express’s contract after months of pressure from Northern Mayors, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said; “It is absolutely right that this is the end of the line for failing railway operator Transpennine Express.
“We’ve been urging the government to act for almost a year, as delays and cancellations have damaged our economy and subjected commuters in the North to sheer misery.
“This is a victory for Northern Mayors who rallied together to hold Transpennine Express and Rishi Sunak’s government to account on this issue.
“We hope this allows an opportunity to reset relationships with staff who have borne the brunt of operator failings, and look forward to hearing how the new operator intends to improve services – as the voice of passengers, I will continue to speak up for their interests first and foremost.”
Under Operator of Last Resort, services will run as usual with no changes to tickets, timetables or planned services with the Department committed to ensuring a seamless transition for passengers.