Transpennine Express: So long and farewell

11 May 2023
Transport Secretary won't renew or extend operators contract at the end of May, placing it into Operator of Last Resort.
  • Transpennine Express’s contract will not be renewed on May 28
  • Secretary of State asks Northern Mayors to work with the Government to improve services for passengers
  • Comes as Single Leg Pricing is extended across most of LNER network resulting in simpler, more flexible tickets that offer better value

The Transport Secretary has today (11th May) announced he will not renew or extend Transpennine Express’s (TPE) contract at the end of the month, bringing the company into Operator of Last Resort (OLR) from 28th May. Tickets purchased for travel on Transpennine Express services remain valid after the May 28 transfer to the OLR, with no current plans to change fares.

Alongside the train operating company, the Department for Transport (DfT) says that it "has taken steps to improve services, putting the operator on a recovery plan in February and meeting with local Mayors to discuss a way forward."

The DfT said: "While some improvements have been made over the past few months, it has been decided that to achieve the performance levels passengers deserve, and that the Northern economy needs, both the contract and the underlying relationships must be reset. While making the decision to bring Transpennine Express into Operator of Last Resort, the Department recognises that a significant number of problems facing Transpennine Express stem from matters out of its control.

"These include a backlog of recruitment and training drivers, reforming how the workforce operates and most notably, ASLEF’s decision to withdraw rest day working – preventing drivers from taking on overtime shifts and filling in gaps on services."

The decision to bring Transpennine Express into the control of the Operator of Last Resort is said to be temporary with its intention that it will return to the private sector.

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"Today’s decision will not instantaneously resolve the challenges being faced on the lines but will provide an opportunity to reset relationships between the operator, staff, trade unions and passengers." As part of this and in response to stakeholders’ calls for action, the Transport Secretary has asked DfT to review services in the North to help drive efficiency and find better ways to deliver for passengers across the region. He also asks all interested parties, including the Northern Mayors and Transport for the North, to engage with the Government on this work. The Government continues to urge the union to call off upcoming strikes and the rest day working ban.

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."

Under Operator of Last Resort, services will run as normal with no changes to tickets, timetables or planned services with the Department committed to ensuring a seamless transition for passengers. The decision on Transpennine Express comes as LNER today announced, after a successful trial, single leg pricing will be extended across most of its network from the June 11 with tickets going on sale this Sunday.

Find more details on the Transpennine Express website.

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