Government-run TransPennine Express has published a new blueprint which it says aims to “address many of the issues which have caused problems and disruption for rail customers”.
Earlier this year the decision was made not to renew FirstGroup’s TransPennine Express franchise following a period of poor performance, with the service being transferred to the state-owned operator of last resort (OLR).
New operating company DOHL (standing for DfT OLR Holdings) has now published what it is calling the Making Journeys Better prospectus, which addresses the high rates of cancellations and union disputes which have plagued the franchise.
DOHL says it has reduced cancellations by 40 per cent since it took over, and has outlined a three-phase plan to improve performance.
This will involve stabilising the operation to deliver better reliability and punctuality, re-engaging with customers, colleagues and stakeholders, and finally transforming the network “through innovation and investment in better facilities”.
In the short term this means a “a slightly reduced timetable” (down from 320 services per day to 300) to enable the operator to improve reliability, trust and confidence, with the aim of restoring cut services by December 2024 at the latest.
Other initiatives include a programme of toilet improvements on trains, the recovering of all seats on trains, and a refresh of the older Class 185 trains including the replacement of carpets and an interior deep clean.
Commenting on the news Chris Jackson, TPE’s newly appointed permanent managing director, said:
“We’re starting a new chapter at TransPennine Express, with plans now in place to deliver a more reliable, punctual and dependable service across the towns and cities we connect.
“After a challenging few years, our plan sets out the steps we’re taking to make journeys better for all our customers. We’ve already made some significant improvements at TPE, and our customers are starting to really see the benefit of this work.
“We’ve reduced cancellations by 40 per cent, we’ve worked to rebuild relationships with trade union representatives and have resolved many of the local disputes that were so disruptive for so long, and we’ve delivered improvements and upgrades to some of our key stations.
“But we know there is a lot more work to do and our plan for the future puts our customers at the heart of our decision making and outlines the additional steps we’re taking to build on the progress we’ve made so far.
“For years TPE was known for outstanding customer service and reliability – we will return to that position. Our ambition is to ensure that, from buying a ticket to leaving the station at the end of a journey, our customers have the best journey experience possible.”