TransPennine Express 'trying to blame train drivers for its failure'

TransPennine Express is attempting to blame train drivers for its own failures, a trade union has claimed.

Passengers across the North have endured months of severe disruption, as the operator has cancelled thousands of services at short notice.

The Government will decide whether the operator’s contract should be renewed in May or its Operator of Last Resort should take over.

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TransPennine Express (TPE) has blamed several issues, but said there would be an immediate improvement if train drivers’ union ASLEF agreed to a new rest-day working agreement, so drivers can once again cover for absent colleagues and help train new recruits.

TransPennine Express has cancelled thousands of services at short notice in recent monthsTransPennine Express has cancelled thousands of services at short notice in recent months
TransPennine Express has cancelled thousands of services at short notice in recent months

The union has been criticised in recent weeks after it refused the operator’s latest offer, which would guarantee drivers around £480 for a 10-hour overtime shift.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary, said: “TPE is trying to blame train drivers for its failure to provide passengers across the North of England and Scotland with the service it promised, and is contracted, to provide.

“It is an utter disgrace that this company is unable to deliver a service for which it is paid handsomely by the taxpayer and now, instead of telling the truth about its own failures, chooses to tell passengers and stakeholders a tissue of lies.

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“It is a clear and blatant attempt by First Group, which owns TPE, to limit the reputational fallout and damage and comes after the problems – again, of its own making – on Avanti West Coast.

“The company says it has enough drivers. That’s not true. TPE does not have enough drivers. Because, if it did, it would not need rest-day working. But it doesn’t.”

He added: “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.”

A source working with ASLEF has said the union would be willing to accept the same pay and conditions set out in the previous rest-day working agreement, which expired in December 2021.

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TPE said it has over 580 drivers – more than ever before – but it needs a rest-day working agreement in place to ensure drivers are available to train new recruits.

A TPE spokeswoman said: “We currently have an unprecedented programme of driver training, greater than any other operator in the North, with engineering schemes on our network that require several diversions across our routes which, in turn, increases the burden of required driver training.”

She added: We will continue to work constructively with the union to try to find a resolution.”

The latest figures show TPE axed almost a quarter (1,048) of its services due to a shortage of train crew, in the four weeks to February 4. That was far more than any other operator in the country.

TPE also had one of the worst punctuality records in the country between October and December last year, as less than half (46.5 per cent) of its trains ran on time.