The rail industry is sleeping as rail chiefs defend TransPennine’s move to OLR model

The rail industry is sleeping as rail chiefs defend TransPennine’s move to OLR model

The rail Industry has gone to sleep in the UK. That’s the belief of Robin Gisby, the CEO of the Department for Transport (DfT) OLR Holdings, the company which runs the Operator of Last Resort (OLH) model for the DfT.

Gisby was speaking to MP’s yesterday at Transport Committee alongside Rail Minister Huw Merriman where they discussed the OLH model and the work they are currently doing to improve services.

Mr Gisby said “We have challenged the management to look at other modes of traction. You won’t order another diesel train. You need to come at this with a long term view, and that means saying some slightly unreasonable things in order to get people to think differently.

But we have to inject pace because this industry has really gone to sleep over the last two to three years and its lost its place in the sun.”

His comments followed the nationalisation of TransPennine Express (TPE) in May, which had been underperforming for several months, including delays, poor service and multiple cancellations.

Evidence backs it up

Its poor performance was backed up by the latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) which showed TransPennine Express had the highest rate of cancellations in the country. The next performance figures from ORR are due next week.

And regarding TPE, Gisby said that his focus was on getting TPE back to running a reliable and cost effective rail service, admitting that the operator will be cutting the services back in December. He defended this decision however, saying: “I would rather run 100 trains reliably than run 120 but end up running 90.”

And Merriman believes the performance showed that it was right to move TPE into public ownership and the OLH model, he said: “It was difficult early days, because it’s very unsettling, so the cancellation rate actually towards the end of May was back up to 26 per cent, but with the rest day agreement in place, when there’s no action short of a strike, that cancellation rate has gone down to 5 per cent.

“I believe that that was the right decision to make. I believe the evidence backs it up now,” he added.

The turnaround and performance of TPE alongside other operators under the OLH model which includes Northern, LNER and Southeastern was at the centre of the discussion.

When quizzed on why no operator who had entered into an OLR arrangement had ever left including LNER, who have been under public ownership for over five years, Merriman commented: “In terms of how we’d move an operator out of an OLR and into the private sector, that’ll be tied into the development of the passenger service contract, a brand new model and that’ll take time to deliver.

“We have every intention but it’ll take time to do so, therefore I’m more focused on delivery.”

The Passenger service contracts are the replacement for the franchising model, brought in by the government in May 2021, that’ll mirror the concession model currently used by TfL Overground and focus more on service levels.

Photo Credit: Istock



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