TransPennine Express: Yorkshire's Mayors call for Government to take over rail operator

Metro Mayors representing million of people across Yorkshire have demanded the government takes over struggling rail operator TransPennine Express (TPE).

The contract to run services across the North ends in just over five weeks, with ministers to decide if it should be renewed or if it moves to the Government's operator 'of last resort'.

Now Northern Mayors, including those for South and West Yorkshire, have written to Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisting it "needs to start afresh under new ownership”.

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Signing off an extension, the Northern leaders claim, will consign passengers to many more years of "chaos and misery".

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy BrabinMayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin
Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin

The letter, also signed by the Mayors of Greater Manchester, North of Tyne and Liverpool City Region, says: “Such a decision would be rewarding failure and be a betrayal of passengers in the North.”

Passengers have faced months of disruption with thousands of services cancelled at short notice. The operator, owned by FirstGroup, said cancellations are down 40 per cent since its improvement plan was introduced, while it is trying to secure overtime pay deals.

The Metro Mayors, however, have urged Rishi Sunak's Government to heed calls for caution. The letter adds: “Rail passengers have had enough. The Northern economy has had enough, the failure of TPE is holding us back. We need change now.”

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In a joint statement issued today, the Northern Mayors said: “We understand that a decision is imminent on the contract for TransPennine Express.

“We are concerned by suggestions that First Group may be awarded a contract extension and cannot see how this can possibly be justified given the ongoing cancellations and poor service being provided.

“We have today written to the Secretary of State, as Mayors representing millions of people across the North, to reiterate our firm view that it is time for a fresh start.

“Moving now to an Operator of Last Resort will bring forward the change on the railways that the North desperately needs.”

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “Cancellations are now down by around 40 per cent since our recovery plan was introduced. However, in order to further substantially reduce cancellations for customers and all those who depend on the North’s connectivity, we have been trying to secure an overtime pay deal with ASLEF for drivers who wish to volunteer for additional shifts.

“Restoring overtime working for drivers at TPE will in turn, if implemented and used in the same way as before, significantly accelerate training and reduce cancellations within days of the overtime deal being enacted, which is exactly what our customers need.”