Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and metro mayor of Liverpool Steve Rotheram are lobbying the Government to immediately increase funding for two train operators in the north of England, TransPennine Express (TPE) and Northern, to end alleged “rail chaos”.
On Saturday, the mayors are expected to say that widespread cancellations, delays, and poor performance are preventing people from getting to work or making social trips and causing businesses to reconsider investing in the north of England.
They want a deadline of the end of the year to be given for improving services, saying TPE should then be stripped of its contract if there is not a marked improvement in delivery.
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Mr Burnham said: “Enough is enough. Today, we are calling for immediate action from the Government to deliver a funding injection into the TransPennine Express and Northern contracts.
“Both have a long way to go to win back the trust of passengers in the North, but they will never do so if they are being hamstrung by the financial constraints imposed on them by Whitehall.
“Millions of passengers in the north need to know that the Government has their back when it comes to the delivery of reliable, functioning public transport.
“They need to ensure that operators have the financial and negotiating room to breathe in order to start fixing our broken system, including by supporting a resumption of rest day working.”
Steve Rotheram added: “This rail chaos is not only inflicting misery on people’s lives, its wreaking havoc on our local economies too.
“So, whenever government’s game of musical chairs is over, we want the Transport Secretary to take immediate action with an urgent injection of funds into both ailing Northern franchises and the failing Avanti.”
A TPE spokesperson said: “Prior to December 2021 TransPennine Express had posted its best ever performance results, and was subsequently recognised as ‘Train Operator of the Year’ at the Rail Business Awards.
“Since then, prolonged disruption affecting our services has been caused by a range of issues including ongoing high levels of train crew sickness, a persisting training backlog as a direct result of Covid, and infrastructure issues outside of TPE’s control.
“Combined, these factors have seen a number of on-the-day or ‘evening before’ cancellations being made.
“In normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled timetable – and have more drivers now than ever before – however the combination of factors has put unprecedented pressure on our ability to effectively operate our services.
“Our customers want, and deserve, reliable and punctual train services, and we are sorry have not been able to consistently provide that due to the ongoing issues.
“TPE’s team continues to work flat-out to deliver higher levels of service delivery and to tackle the issues that are being experienced by customers.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Government has earmarked more than £16 billion of funding for passenger services since the start of the pandemic – equivalent to nearly £600 per household and around £160,000 for every rail worker.
“We are working closely with train operators to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum, long term solutions are put in place, and passengers can continue to travel while also recruiting and training significant numbers of new drivers at speed.”Enjoy more Railways Illustrated Magazine reading every month. Click here to subscribe.