Mayors say Government should not renew TransPennine Express contract

Mayors in the North of England have urged the Government to not renew the contract of train company TransPennine Express (TPE) when it expires next month.

The operator has faced sharp criticism after it cancelled nearly a quarter of its services between February and March.

It has been hard hit by drivers no longer volunteering to work paid overtime shifts, which has inflicted widespread delays and cancellations over the past year.

The Labour mayors said allowing TPE to continue running these services would be “a betrayal of passengers in the north”.

The group includes the Labour mayors of West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool and North of Tyne, who collectively represent about nine million people/

They have asked the Government not to renew FirstGroup’s contract when it expires on 28 May.

In a joint letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper, the mayors said“We are of the unanimous view that TransPennine Express needs to start afresh under new ownership.

“We urge you to put the views of the passengers of the North ahead of any other considerations when making the decision on the future of TransPennine Express.

“Rail passengers have had enough. The Northern economy has had enough, the failure of TPE is holding us back.”

A spokesperson for TPE said cancellations had reduced “by about 40%” following the introduction of a recovery plan.

However, the company said to “substantially reduce cancellations for customers” it was trying to secure an overtime pay deal with the Aslef union for drivers who “wished to volunteer for additional shifts”.

A Department for Transport spokesman told the BBC: “Ministers have been previously clear that the recent level of service provided by TransPennine Express is unacceptable and that all options remain on the table.

“We are working closely with train operators to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and long-term solutions are put in place for passengers, including the swift recruitment and training of new drivers.”