Transpennine Express will lose its contract at the end of this month after an announcement by the Department for Transport, citing continued disruption and cancellations.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper revealed that the company will be brought into an operator of last resort when its contract expires on 28 May after months of speculation about its future.
Harper highlighted the importance of passenger experience in his decision but also took the chance to blame the ongoing rail worker strikes for some of the company’s struggles.
He said: “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 7-day working week.”
Whilst Transpennine’s cancellation rate had improved in recent months from a quarter of services in January and February to a sixth in March, it still had the highest rate in the UK, affecting its services covering Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The step to bring the company under government control means that a business will step in to run the service on behalf of the government.
Firstgroup, the parent company of Transpennine, said it was disappointed by the decision not to continue the contract and similarly blamed industrial relations issues for its ongoing issues.
CEO Graham Sutherland said: “Our team have worked extremely hard to improve services, including by recruiting and training more drivers than ever before.
“We have also worked closely with the DfT and Transport for the North on an agreed recovery plan as well as an improved offer on overtime working for our drivers.”
Harper and FirstGroup’s blame of striking workers for Transpennine’s struggle has been criticised as misleading by many, including West Lancashire Labour MP Ashley Dalton who tweeted that the ASLEF union’s responsibility was to its members and not to “accommodate the chronic underfunding and mismanagement of services.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said that the decision to bring Transpennine’s services into state control is hoped to be a temporary one with an aim that it will be returned to the private sector.
DfT said that the decision was made to reset the contract and underlying relationships involved with the service.
Recently, a report by the Office of Rail and Road cited Transpennine as both having some of the worst cancellation rates of any train operator and one of the lowest on-time scores.