‘Chocolate teapot’ rail service can end after rail contract change

TAMESIDE’S MPs believe the ‘chocolate teapot’ days on the railways are ending after TransPennine Express (TPE) was stripped of its licence.

Poor performance and consistent cancellations forced the Government to act and appoint a public sector ‘operator of last resort’ once the current terms expire on May 28.

And Jonathan Reynolds, who has Stalybridge station managed by TPE in his constituency, told The Correspondent the move by transport secretary Mark Harper is the right one.

Despite Mr Harper later saying renationalisation is ‘a soundbite rather than a solution,’ he also hit out at the Government’s lack of urgency.

Stalybridge Railway Station. Image by GGC Media

Mr Reynolds said: “I welcome the necessary curtailment of TPE’s tenure of ineptitude, but why has it taken the Government so long?

“Some months we’ve had less than half the timetabled services running.

“Constituents have been in despair. I do feel directly operated control can bring about improvements and feel this news strengthens Labour’s policy of returning the rail network to public control as the franchises expire.

“We simply can’t deliver economic transformation to the north if the trains are less reliable than a chocolate teapot.”

Jonathan Reynolds MP

Mr Harper said that once performance levels are restored to what they should be a new operator will be sought for the franchise, which operates services that run through Tameside.

Ms Rayner, who has Ashton-under-Lyne station in her constituency, added: “Many of my constituents rely on public transport to get to and from work and to get to medical appointments and for leisure purposes.

“The service provided by TransPennine Express has been below par for far too long. This broken service has comprehensively failed the north.

“After months of needless damage, Conservative ministers have finally accepted they can no longer defend the indefensible.

“But this endless cycle of shambolic private operators failing passengers, shows the Conservatives’ rail system is fundamentally broken.

“The next Labour government will end this sticking plaster politics by bringing our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire, ending the Tories’ failing system, and putting passengers back at the heart of our rail network.”

Lord McLoughlin, chair of Transport for the North, said: “We welcome the decision announced today by the Secretary of State to bring the contract under Operator of Last Resort (OLR) for TransPennine Express.

“The TfN Board’s position on this issue has been clear for some considerable time, that services need to significantly improve.

“While we have seen some improvements over recent months, to achieve the performance levels passengers expect and deserve, and that the northern economy needs, there is a need for a resetting of the operation.

”We will now look forward positively to discussing with our members and working with the government to ensure the best way to achieve a service that meets the expectations of those living and working in the north.”

FirstGroup, which owns TransPennine Express, said it was “disappointed” by the Government’s decision to not renew the contract it has run in various guises since 2004.

Graham Sutherland, FirstGroup’s chief executive, said: “Our team have worked extremely hard to improve services, including by recruiting and training more drivers than ever before.

“This decision does not alter our belief in the important role of private rail operators in the delivery of vital, environmentally-friendly transport for customers and communities across the UK.”

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