Troubled rail operator TransPennine Express has been set targets to make urgent improvements in performance following its timetable disaster in December.
Dozens of trains were cancelled between December 19 and January 5 as the firm struggled to introduce a new fleet of trains, with the operator at one stage returning the worst performance figures in the country.
Transport for the North, which advises the Government the North’s transport needs, has now demanded that the operator meet a series of targets, including returning punctuality to early 2019 levels by March.
The RMT union said they would continue to push for TransPennine to join Northern and the East Coast routes under public control. However Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake welcomed the new performance targets, and said TPE was “in last chance saloon if they don’t hit these figures”.
Transport for the North (TFN) will use the Public Performance Measure (PPM) of punctuality to assess the operator.
PPM is based on the proportion of trains that arrive at their destination within five minutes of the schedule for regional services or 10 minutes for long distance routes.
In the first half of 2019, TPE’s average daily PPM was 86 per cent. But at some points in November, it sank as low as 45 per cent, amid a series of delays and cancellations.
The operator has to show further improvement by the summer and “clear progress” in restoring its full timetable.
Strategic Rail Director for TFN, David Hoggarth said: “The operator must now build back trust and deliver what is needed.
“The new trains are welcome, and the extra capacity they bring is much needed, but service levels must be maintained as they come on stream.”
Henri Murison, Director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said TPE was arguably far more in need of nationalisation than Northern, which will come under government control from March 1.
He said: “If the business themselves do not effect change to meet this public target, I have every hope the Secretary of State will stand willing to intervene.”
Hull North MP Diana Johnson said some of her constituents had been forced to give up jobs in Leeds or move house because of the operator’s unreliability. She said: “If we don’t see these improvements then the Government needs to take decisive action as they finally have done with Northern.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said they would continue to fight to renationalise the rail network. He added: “You would have thought by now that after the Northern Rail fiasco transport bosses would have realised that dire threats and final warnings just prolong the agony when a private franchise holder is clearly unable to deliver.”
Leo Goodwin, Managing Director for TransPennine Express said, “We absolutely agree that our customers should benefit from improved performance. We have been very open about the fact that this was nowhere near good enough before Christmas and we have apologised to our customers for this.
“Since the start of the year we have made a number of changes which has seen our performance improve, but we know that there is more to be done. At the start of February, we reintroduced the majority of services that we had temporarily removed, with the remainder of these services to be introduced next week.
“Performance this past week has been severely affected by the extreme weather that impacted the whole of the transport industry and we are working hard to recover from this.
“We continue with our plans, which sees even more new trains on our network, an increase in capacity and improving our customers journeys with us. We also continue to work closely with Network Rail, Northern and other rail operators, whose performance also underpins our ability to deliver improved train service performance.”