TransPennine Express cancelled equivalent of one in six services in March

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Train operator TransPennine Express (TPE) cancelled the equivalent of one in six services across most of March, new figures show.

Office of Rail and Road (ORR) data revealed the company’s cancellation score from March 5-31 was 17.0% when adjusted to include pre-cancellations due to train crew shortages.

This led to renewed calls for the Department for Transport to take over control of services when TPE’s current contract expires on May 28.

TPE passengers have suffered from widespread delays and cancellations over the past year.

The FirstGroup-owned operator, which covers an area across northern England and into Scotland, has been badly affected by drivers no longer volunteering to work paid overtime shifts.

Cancellation scores show the percentage of services that are either fully or part-cancelled, with part-cancellations counted as half a full cancellation.

They have traditionally not included services removed from timetables as late as 10pm on the previous night through a controversial process known as p-coding.

In an effort to boost transparency, in February the ORR began publishing adjusted figures taking into account p-coding due to a lack of resources.

For the four weeks to March 31, TPE fully pre-cancelled 388 services for this reason.

This was far more than any other operator, ahead of Transport for Wales (52), LNER (22) and ScotRail (21).

On January 20, the ORR ordered operators to change how they record pre-cancellations, but no plan has been implemented.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “The chaos caused by TransPennine Express is failing passengers and damaging the economy.

“It is absurd that people cannot rely on the train to get to work across huge areas of the north.

“This failing operator has had enough chances to turn its services around.

“Ministers must step in, put passengers first and strip TransPennine Express of its contract.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee on Wednesday that he has not decided what action to take in relation to TPE’s contract extension, but “no option is off the table”.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “Cancellations are now down by around 40% since our recovery plan was introduced. However, in order to further substantially reduce cancellations for customers and all those who depend on the North’s connectivity, we have been trying to secure an overtime pay deal with ASLEF for drivers who wish to volunteer for additional shifts.

“Restoring overtime working for drivers at TPE will in turn, if implemented and used in the same way as before, significantly accelerate training and reduce cancellations within days of the overtime deal being enacted, which is exactly what our customers need.”

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