TRANSPORT for the North has given TransPennine Express new, strict public performance targets, after months of cancellations and other problems.
The decision comes only a few days since rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris warned that the Department for Transport was prepared to take action.
He told MPs on 4 February: ‘We have been clear with the operator that it must take urgent steps to address the poor performance. If necessary, my Department will take action under the terms set out in the franchise agreement …
‘Over the next two months TPE will reinstate the services that it took out as part of the temporary timetable that followed the issues with the delayed introduction of rolling stock in December. The Secretary of State and I recently met the managing director of the franchise, Network Rail and the manufacturers of the new trains, CAF and Hitachi. We did not use Anglo-Saxon language, as many customers might have been using recently, but we made it perfectly clear that they must take urgent steps to improve their services.’
The new targets which TPE must meet are a performance recovery to early 2019 levels by the end of next month, to build on this improvement still further by the summer and also to show ‘clear progress’ in restoring the full timetable and making sure that passengers have ‘timely’ information.
Transport for the North’s strategic rail director David Hoggarth said: ‘Passengers in the North of England must have a rail service they can rely on. In the run-up to Christmas last year TPE simply failed to provide what was needed. The operator must now build back trust and deliver what is needed. The new trains are welcome, and the extra capacity they bring is much needed, but service levels must be maintained as they come on stream.’
The operator has revealed that 928 passengers have claimed compensation for journeys that were delayed for between 15 and 29 minutes since it launched Delay Repay 15 at the beginning of this month.
TPE managing director Leo Goodwin said: ‘We absolutely agree that our customers should benefit from improved performance. We have been very open about the fact that this was nowhere near good enough before Christmas and we have apologised to our customers for this.
‘Since the start of the year we have made a number of changes which has seen our performance improve, but we know that there is more to be done. At the start of February, we reintroduced the majority of services that we had temporarily removed, with the remainder of these services to be introduced next week.
‘Performance this past week has been severely affected by the extreme weather and we are working hard to recover from this.
‘We continue with our plans, which sees even more new trains on our network, an increase in capacity and improving our customers journeys with us. We also continue to work closely with Network Rail, Northern and other rail operators, whose performance also underpins our ability to deliver improved train service performance.’
TPE is set to continue until April 2023, but its owner FirstGroup has made what it described as an ‘onerous contract provision’ in its accounts for a total loss at TPE of £106.3 million by the time the contract comes to an end.