Disruption and cancellations see Transpennine Express lose contract

By Tim Aldred

11 May 2023

Transpennine Express runs through Lancaster

Transpennine Express, which runs trains through Preston and Lancaster, will not have its contract renewed when its current deal expires on May 28.

The company is responsible for a network which spans the North of England and Scotland. It connects Lancashire with Edinburgh and Glasgow to the North, and Liverpool and Manchester to the South.

However, the government's Department for Transport has now decided that the company can no longer be trusted to serve its customers, saying that "months of significant disruption and regular cancellations have 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 trains will continue to run on an Operator of Last Resort system which should not see timetables or prices affected. The government intends to return the network to private sector control.

The Department for Transport did however concede that some of the problems faced by Transpennine Express were outside of its control.

These, it says, include a backlog of recruitment and training drivers, reforming how the workforce operates. It also apportioned blame to the workers union ASLEF and its "decision to withdraw rest day working – preventing drivers from taking on overtime shifts and filling in gaps on services."

Mark Harper, transport secretary, 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."

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