Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out stripping TransPennine Express (TPE) of its contract to run rail services across the North.
Pressure is growing on the under fire rail operator and Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Mr McCartney’s intervention came as mayors across the North of England – including Slaithwaite-based Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin – demanded TPE be stripped of its contract, which is due to expire in May.
In Parliament Mr McCartney said: “The TransPennine Route Upgrade is underway which is good news with stations in Slaithwaite and Marsden getting improvements but what is not such good news is the dozens of daily rail service cancellations by TPE which is causing absolute misery for my constituents trying to get to work, get to college or trying to visit family and friends.
“The franchise is up in May, Mr Speaker, so does the Prime Minister agree with me that ‘enough is enough’? If TPE don’t get to grips with this we need to strip them of the franchise and get somebody in who will deliver the reliable rail services for my constituents.”
In response, Mr Sunak replied: “We have been clear that the current service is simply not acceptable. Rail North Partnership is working with the company on a Service Improvement Plan and my Honourable Friend the Rail Minister is having weekly meetings with them.
“The TPE contract does expire in May and whilst there are currently discussions about that new contract if ministers conclude that the operator cannot be turned around then other decisions may be made.”
Speaking at Conference for the North, Mayor Brabin described public transport as a “fundamental human right” which was being denied.
She said there were 600 cancellations last week which is costing the economy £2 million a week in West Yorkshire alone, impacting on people’s work and family life and their mental health.
As a regular commuter from Slaithwaite, Mayor Brabin had heard people’s “painful” stories about rail travel.
Mayors from across the North had seen and heard enough and Mayor Brabin (above) said: “We are calling for TPE to lose their franchise because they are not fit for purpose.
“There were 600 cancellations last week – it’s costing £2 million a week in West Yorkshire, £8m across the North. It’s holding us back.”
TPE says it has recently recruited 113 drivers compared with 57 in 2021-22 and there are driver shortages across the industry.