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14.10.14

TPE overcrowding caused by ‘chronic’ train shortage

A “chronic” shortage of diesel stock is the leading problem and cause for overcrowding on the TransPennine Express (TPE) routes in the north. 

This is according to Alistair Gordon, UK chief executive of Keolis, which runs First TransPennine Express in a joint venture with FirstGroup. 

The TOC just cannot find extra carriages for its diesel services, he said. 

In an interview with the Financial Times, he said: “There is not enough diesel rolling stock in the country.” 

From April 2015, FTPE seems set to lose all nine of its Class 170 Turbostars to Chiltern Railways in Oxfordshire, after Chiltern struck a deal with the train leasing company, Porterbrook, which owns them. 

Earlier this year MPs were in uproar over the TPE-Chiltern rolling stock transfer proposal, with Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, saying the north would suffer once again, because of a series of “terrible decisions made by the DfT”. Negotiations are ongoing about delaying the cascade to 2016. 

FTPE got new Siemens-built 110mph Class 350/4 electric stock at the end of last year for its route between Manchester Airport, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central, via Wigan North Western, Preston and Carlisle, which allowed some of its diesel stock to be transferred to serve other routes. 

But TPE managing director Nick Donovan said these extra seats would be full within a year because of rising passenger numbers. 

Recent government figures revealed that peak services on the TPE routes in the north suffer from some of the highest levels of overcrowding in the country. 

The RMT rail union stated that the capacity crisis on TPE, and the rest of the network, is wholly down to the fragmentation and profiteering of privatisation. 

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “It is a shocking indictment of both this government’s policies and two decades of privatisation that one of the most crowded franchises on the rail system is losing a large chunk of its fleet to routes that can offer the leasing company more money and a longer-term deal. 

“The internal rolling stock merry-go-round is robbing trains from the north to aid the south while the clapped-out, lashed-up Pacers are also being kept on indefinitely as part of the new Northern franchise.” 

RTM contacted the DfT for a comment on this, but at the time of publication had received no reply. 

(Image: c. Joshua Brown)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

Comments

Mikeyb   14/10/2014 at 16:46

It should not be forgotten that the Class 350/4s are only on a sub-lease from London Midland, until the new TPE franchise holder acquires it's own fleet of EMUs. They will then be returned to LM.

Tony   16/10/2014 at 10:25

I have little sympathy with TPE. Instead of using the 185s displaced by the 350/4s to strengthen the pre-existing cross-pennine services, they introduced the new service linking Liverpool and Newcastle via Manchester Victoria. This action has had a number of consequences: 1 Performance has significantly slipped as capacity has been squeezed in a number of places 2 Service intervals have deteriorated in some places (e.g. York-Northallerton) 3 The choice of trains to strengthen often seems wrong (overcrowding on 3 car 0820 Dewsbury-Huddersfield is gross whereas 0846 is a 6 car and is rarely half full) 4 Heroic coupling of units planned in the height of peak (1727 from Piccadilly) 5 Northern was forced to make many timetable changes to allow TP changes which have caused both performance deterioration and poorer planned services Seems to me that TP have (perhaps in the dying days of their franchise) opted for a performance risky ORCATS raid rather than providing more capacity on the then existing services. One wonders what performance modelling NR undertook before accepting the timetable change, and what involvement DfT had in the process.

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