TransPennine Express: Trade union explains decision that will cause more disruption

A trade union said it has banned train drivers from working overtime for TransPennine Express because the operator wants to impose new terms and conditions on them.

Last week the union ASLEF accepted a new rest-day working agreement which could significantly reduce the number of cancellations affecting passengers, as it would allow drivers to cover for absent colleagues and help train new recruits for the first time since December 2021.

The deal, which was due to come into effect on Sunday, May 7, promised drivers who work on their days off 175 per cent of their normal rate.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But shortly after accepting the deal, the union said its members will not return to working overtime because they have backed industrial action short of a strike.

TransPennine ExpressTransPennine Express
TransPennine Express

TransPennine Express (TPE), which had the worst cancellation record in the country last month, is eager to make improvements and convince the Government that its contract to run services across the North should be renewed in May.

But a source close to the rest-day working negotiations said he is concerned ASLEF is “holding out” to force the Government to bring services back under public control.

He said ASLEF is well aware services would immediately improve if drivers began working overtime and the Government would then be more inclined to renew TPE’s contract next month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Everyone secretly knows that this is about politics, not about anything else,” he said.

However, Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary, said drivers are refusing to work overtime because TPE has “tried, by sleight of hand, to take away some of our members’ terms and conditions”.

He also claimed the operator is “trying to blame train drivers for its failure to provide passengers” with a reliable service.

“TPE does not have enough drivers. Because if it did, it would not need rest day working,” he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Rest day working on the railway is for training and recruitment purposes – not to help the company put a sticking plaster over problems caused by its inept and hapless management – and run its normal timetable.

“After 12 months of talks TPE finally agreed to offer drivers the same terms for working overtime that it had in the past. That was why we agreed to a rest-day working agreement with the company last Tuesday.

“But the company tried, by sleight of hand, to take away some of our members’ terms and conditions – a land grab which the company knew we would not accept.”

TPE, owned by First Group, said it has more drivers than ever before – over 580 – but it needs some to work on their rest days to help deliver “an unprecedented programme of driver training”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last week, the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) revealed one in six scheduled TPE services did not run in the four weeks ending March 31, due to train crew shortages.

Five Northern mayors, including Oliver Coppard and Tracy Brabin, wrote to Transport Secretary Mark Harper and urged him to end TPE’s contract and allow the Government’s operator of last resort to take over.

Rail passengers have had enough. The Northern economy has had enough, the failure of TPE is holding us back,” they wrote.

Mr Harper has said “no option is off the table” and he will aim to make a decision which delivers long-awaited improvements for passengers.