After months of delays and cancellations, the Transport Secretary has announced that train services run by TransPennine Express will be nationalised.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has announced the decision to bring the TPE’s services under Government control, but warned it is “not a silver bullet”.
Graham Sutherland, chief executive of TransPennine Express owner FirstGroup, said the company has “worked extremely hard to improve services”.
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But watchdog Transport Focus said passengers have “endured an unacceptable service for too long” while West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin declared it was “absolutely right that this is the end of the line” for what she described as a “failing railway operator”.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said services will be brought under its Operator of Last Resort from May 28.
TPE passengers have suffered from widespread delays and cancellations over the past year. Latest figures show TransPennine Express cancelled the equivalent of one in six services across most of March.
The operator, which covers an area across northern England and into Scotland, has been badly affected by drivers who are members of the Aslef union no longer volunteering to work paid overtime shifts.
Mr 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.”
He added that the DfT has “played our part but Aslef now need to play theirs” by calling off strikes and the ban on rest day working.
The DfT put the operator on a recovery plan in February after meeting local mayors to discuss a way forward.
The department said: “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.”
It added: “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.”
FirstGroup will continue to run Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, Hull Trains and Lumo.
The Operator of Last Resort already runs London North Eastern Railway, Northern and Southeastern services.