TransPennine Express to introduce new timetable with fewer services
Managing Director Chris Jackson said the operator will run around 20 fewer off-peak services each day, to free up resources so it can address a massive driver training backlog and tackle long-standing issues with reliability.
“I recognise we have not always performed as well as we could have done,” Mr Jackson said.
“I’m confident this plan will allow us to reset and deliver the reliable, predictable and dependable service that people of the North deserve.”
He also said TransPennine Express (TPE), which serves passengers across the North, will re-introduce services if there is an increase in demand and issues with overcrowding.
It comes after First Group lost the contract to run services in May and the Government’s Operator of Last Resort took over, because passengers had been forced to endure 18 months of widespread cancellations.
TPE said it has made progress since the takeover and now only cancels around 5 per cent of services each in most weeks, but that figure rises to 30 per cent in weeks when staff take industrial action.
The operator has blamed its recent issues on a lack of fully-trained drivers, claiming just 70 per cent of them are trained to operate services on all routes and there is currently a backlog of 3,000 training days.
It said there are “perpetual challenges” as drivers need to learn how to operate a range of trains on different routes, including the new diversionary routes put in place while workers upgrade the 76-mile TransPennine Route.
The training programme also hit a major setback when drivers refused to work overtime, so they could cover for absent colleagues and help train new recruits, because no rest-day working agreement was in place between December 2021 and June 2023.
TPE said it will accelerate that programme when the new timetable is introduced in December, ask drivers to accept a new contract that will make them more flexible and stop using the Nova 3 trains, as the training for these services takes far too long.
The operator said this could “create possible long-term overcrowding” as the number of seats it provides to passengers will fall by around 5 per cent.
It expects passengers to make 19.2m journeys in 2023/24 – around 11.8m fewer than before the Covid pandemic.
Mr Jackson said the changes are part of a long-term improvement plan, which will enable to state-owned operator to “bounce back strongly” and “win back customers’ trust”.