TransPennine Express services brought under government control due to “continuous cancellations”

Transport secretary Mark Harper has today (Thursday) announced he will not renew or extend the Transpennine Express (TPE) contract, bringing train services under government control.
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Train services run by TPE - including those which run through Dewsbury, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe and Batley - will be brought into the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort (OLR) from May 28.

This decision follows months of significant disruption and “continuous cancellations” across the Transpennine Express network, which has resulted in a considerable decline in confidence for passengers.

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Alongside the train operating company, the Department has taken steps to improve services, putting the operator on a recovery plan in February and meeting with local Mayors to discuss a way forward.

The government has taken control of TransPennine Express train services following “continuous cancellations”.The government has taken control of TransPennine Express train services following “continuous cancellations”.
The government has taken control of TransPennine Express train services following “continuous cancellations”.

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”.

However, 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.

Mr Harper said: “In my time as Transport Secretary, I have been clear that passenger experience must always come first.

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“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.

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.

“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.”

In response to the decision, Lord McLoughlin, chair of transport for the North, said: "We welcome the decision announced today by the Secretary of State to bring the contract under Operator of Last Resort (OLR) for TransPennine Express.

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"The TfN Board’s position on this issue has been clear for some considerable time, that services need to significantly improve. While we have seen some improvements over recent months, to achieve the performance levels passengers expect and deserve, and that the northern economy needs, there is a need for a resetting of the operation.

Yorkshire Party co-Leader Bob Buxton.Yorkshire Party co-Leader Bob Buxton.
Yorkshire Party co-Leader Bob Buxton.

”We will now look forward positively to discussing with our members and working with the government to ensure the best way to achieve a service that meets the expectations of those living and working in the north.”

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has also responded to the government’s announcement that it will not renew Transpennine Express’s contract after months of pressure from Northern Mayors.

She said: “It is absolutely right that this is the end of the line for the failing railway operator Transpennine Express.

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“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 bore 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.”

However, despite the announcement this morning, Yorkshire Party co-Leader Bob Buxton has claimed the decision to strip TransPennine Express of its rail franchise would have been made more quickly if Yorkshire had Scottish-style devolution.

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Dr Buxton said: “The delay has let customers in Yorkshire and the whole North down. We should be well on with the solution now. A Regional Parliament for Yorkshire would prioritise Yorkshire and give it decisive leadership.

“If the franchise directly impacted London, we would not have had so many months of failure and cancellations. Instead, while the Yorkshire Party has called for this decision for years, the Westminster Government has only now caught up. I suppose they have one thing in common in with TransPennine Express train: better late than never.

“Yorkshire’s economy cannot afford unnecessary delays and dithering. We need proper devolution, with a Regional Parliament – or Yorkshire will be forever delayed.”

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.