Transpennine Express loses contract

Government strip Transpennine Express of contract, bringing the operator under government control from June

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has announced that he will not renew or extend the Transpennine Express (TPE) contract once it expires at the end of the month.

The announcement means that the company will be brought under government control from 28 May.

Transpennine Express has experienced significant disruption and regular cancellations across the whole of the network which has prompted the move from the Transport Secretary.

Alongside removing Transpennine Express as the contract holders, the government confirmed that the intention was to return the company to the private sector and the move was only temporary.

In a statement, Mark Harper said: “In my time as Transport Secretary, I have been clear that passenger experience must always come first.

“After months of commuters and Northern businesses bearing the brunt of continuous cancellations, I’ve made the decision to bring Transpennine Express into operator of last resort.

“This is not a silver bullet and will not instantaneously fix a number of challenges being faced, including ASLEF’s actions which are preventing Transpennine Express from being able to run a full service – once again highlighting why it’s so important that the railways move to a 7-day working week.”

The Transport Secretary acknowledged that some improvements had been made by TPE in the last few months and some issues had been out of their control including strikes and recruitment issues, however it was decided that not enough progress had been made to warrant an extension of the contract.

The Secretary of State for Transport updated the House of Commons earlier today, giving further details on the reasons why the operator had lost the contract.

In a final move to attempt to improve the service, the Department for Transport (DfT) put the operator on a recovery plan in February and is now calling on local mayors and stakeholders to engage with the Department for Transport to discuss a way forward.

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham said on Twitter this morning: "As mayors, we have spoken up consistently for long-suffering rail passengers in the North. I am glad the Government has listened."

West Yorkshire Metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin said: "It is absolutely right that this is the end of the line for failing railway operator Transpennine Express.

"We’ve been urging government to act for almost a year, as delays and cancellations have damaged our economy and subjected commuters in the North to sheer misery.”

In a statement, Transpennine Express boss Graham Sutherland expressed his disappointment with the decision, commenting: "Our team have worked extremely hard to improve services, including by recruiting and training more drivers than ever before.

"We have also worked closely with the Department for Transport and Transport for the North on an agreed recovery plan as well as an improved offer on overtime working for our drivers.

"FirstGroup is a leading UK rail operator with a strong and diversified portfolio.

"Today’s decision does not alter our belief in the important role of private rail operators in the delivery of vital, environmentally-friendly transport for customers and communities across the UK."

The DfT also confirmed that all services will run as normal with no planned changes to timetables or tickets.

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