West Yorkshire Mayor meets with rail bosses to address repeated train cancellations
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Tracy Brabin expressed deep frustration at the last-minute cancellations and has put pressure on the rail operator to make quick improvements.
Speaking with Matthew Golton, the chief executive at TransPennine, Ms Brabin said that people in the North were being let down by an unreliable rail service, which often left people stranded or waiting hours for replacement services.
After listening to the first-hand stories of rail passengers, the metro mayor said that this reflected the feeling across the North, where decades of underinvestment in transport have left communities with a “second-class rail service”.
She has joined calls from other northern mayors for the Government to immediately step in, find a solution to the staffing issues that operators are facing, and ensure they can deliver a reliable service that’s fit for passengers in the region.
Ms Brabin said: “As someone who relies on the rail network every day, I understand the anger of our communities who have suffered this chaos.
“My own train this morning was cancelled [On Monday], and I know that passengers across the North all have their own horror stories of how the rail network has let them down.
“I raised this directly with TransPennine Express, making clear they must come up with an immediate solution.
"At this time of severe economic instability, we cannot have a rail network that’s reliant on drivers not becoming sick and trains not breaking down. This simply isn’t good enough.
“We need an immediate solution, and the Transport Secretary must engage with the operators and unions to make this happen, get to grips with rest day working, then renationalisation should be on the table.”
The meeting comes after TransPennine cancelled a slew of services across its entire network last week, stating issues with defaults in the track in Merseyside but also staffing levels.
TransPennine responded by saying the issues impacting its services is ‘out of its control’ with training backlogged by Covid-19, infrastructure issues and staff illness.
A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “Prior to December 2021 TransPennine Express had posted its best ever performance results, and was subsequently recognised as Train Operator of the Year at the Rail Business Awards.
“Since then, prolonged disruption affecting our services has been caused by a range of issues including ongoing high levels of train crew sickness, a persisting training backlog as a direct result of Covid-19, and infrastructure issues outside of TPE’s control.
"Combined, these factors have seen a number of on-the-day or ‘evening before’ cancellations being made.
"In normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled timetable – and have more drivers now than ever before – however the combination of factors has put unprecedented pressure on our ability to effectively operate our services.
“Our customers want, and deserve, reliable and punctual train services, and we are sorry have not been able to consistently provide that due to the ongoing issues. TPE’s team continues to work flat-out to deliver higher levels of service delivery and to tackle the issues that are being experienced by customers.”