Politicians and union leaders have been reacting to the announcement that Transpennine Express (TPE) will be brought into state control following months of cancellation issues.
The move was announced by Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Tuesday 11 May, meaning that the service will be taken into an operator of last resort when the current contract comes to an end on 28 May 2023.
Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin has been one of the most vocal proponents for the move, describing the decision as “absolutely right.”
She said: “We’ve been urging the government to act for almost a year, as delays and cancellations have damaged our economy and subjected commuters in the North to sheer misery.
“This is a victory for Northern Mayors who rallied together to hold Transpennine Express and Rishi Sunak’s government to account on this issue.”
Though Harper acknowledged the issues caused by TPE and its cancellation rate being the worst in the UK, he also sought to put some of the blame for the company’s issues on the ongoing dispute with trade unions and the subsequent industrial action that has often led to limited services on strike days.
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The ASLEF union, which was specifically cited by Harper in his announcement of TPE’s future, responded to his claim that the union was preventing TPE from being able to run a full service by saying that he knows “full well” that it is not to blame.
ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan said that the company had “paid the price” for its management’s “confrontational approach.” He said: “[TPE] has never employed enough drivers to deliver the services it promised to run.
“It has failed to recruit and retain the drivers it needs. It has abused staff, tried to take away our terms and conditions and tried to force through changes rather than negotiate like grown-ups.”
Although the decision was described by Harper in a speech to the House of Commons as the best way to deliver a new approach to the services, he admitted the move was not a long-term plan, saying that his department’s target was still “to subject this and indeed all contracts, both private sector and those under the OLR, to competitive tendering” when market conditions allowed.
However, multiple parties have used TPE’s contract removal as an opportunity to call for the nationalisation of all railways, including the shadow secretary of state for transport Lousie Haigh, the Green Party and RMT general secretary Mick Lynch.