Break-through deal in TransPennine driver dispute, but disruption continues

Train drivers’ union ASLEF has agreed to end a ban on working overtime, which has inflicted 16 months of disruption on TransPennine Express passengers, but imposed another ban on the same day.

TransPennine Express (TPE), which is owned by First Group, confirmed ASLEF accepted a new rest-day working deal – which means drivers can fill in for absent colleagues and help train new recruits for the first time since December 2021. This will come into force on Sunday, May 7.

However, the union has also imposed another ban on its members working overtime.

TPE currently has the worst cancellation record in the country, with one in six scheduled services not operating in the four weeks ending March 31, due to crew shortages.

A TPE spokesman said: “We welcome the decision by ASLEF to accept a rest-day working offer, at the rate they requested, effective from May 7.

“But we are disappointed industrial action short of a strike from that date has now been called. This means the opportunity to accelerate training and further reduce cancellations has been put back.

“TPE cancellations are down by more than 40% and we are committed to providing the level of service our customers and the businesses of the north and Scotland expect and deserve.

“We want to continue to work with ASLEF to find a way forward that allows us to deliver for all those who rely on our services.”

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “We’re pleased Aslef has accepted what is, by industry standards, a very generous rest day working deal. However, initiating industrial action short of a strike means that it won’t take full effect yet.

“Getting an overtime agreement implemented is the single greatest barrier to services getting back on track – whether or not TransPennine Express receive an extension from Government to retain the franchise.

“Although we are already seeing improvements on services, our economy suffers enormously while delays and cancellations remain high. It’s a lose-lose situation for passengers and businesses, not to mention Aslef members themselves.

“This stalemate cannot go on and I hope Aslef can make progress on the remaining issues which are of concern to them, as none of them are unresolvable.”