Transpennine Express to Be Brought into Operator of Last Resort

The transport secretary has announced that Transpennine Express will not have its contract renewed on 28 May.

Instead, the company will be brought into Operator of Last Resort (OLR) on that date.

There have been months of substantial disruptions as well as frequent cancellation across the entire Transpennine Express network, leading to a “considerable decline in confidence for passengers” the Department for Transport said.

The DfT said it had worked with the train operating company to improve services, having put the TOC on a recovery plan in February. The DfT also met with local mayors to discuss the issue as well as potential solutions. However, despite some improvements, the government has decided these have not sufficiently brought service levels up. As a result, the DfT said that “both the contract and the underlying relationships must be reset”.

While making this decision, the DfT said it was aware that Transpennine Express suffered from problems out of its control. For instance, there is a backlog of recruitment and training drivers, changing how the workforce operates, and most significantly, ASLEF’s decision to withdraw rest day working. This stops drivers from taking on overtime shifts and filling gaps on services. The government is still trying to get the union to call off upcoming strikes as well as the rest day working ban. It said it was aware the situation would not “instantaneously resolve the challenges being faced on the lines”.

The move to bring Transpennine Express into the operator acting on the government’s behalf is to be temporary. The government said its aim was to move it back into the private sector.

Transport Secretary 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 seven-day working week.

“We have played our part, but ASLEF now need to play theirs by calling off strikes and the rest day working ban, and putting the very fair and reasonable pay offer to a democratic vote of their members.”

Under Operator of Last Resort, services will run with no changes to tickets, timetables or planned services.

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