Transpennine Express: Setting the Record Straight
Earlier this week, train operating company Transpennine Express (TPE) sent a letter to stakeholders about the current poor service it is operating.
In this letter various claims were made in an attempt to blame train drivers and ASLEF for the failings of the company.
Mick Whelan, General Secretary, and Andy Hourigan, ASLEF's lead officer for TPE, have spoken out to the press this morning to set the record straight.
TPE set to lose contract
We understand that TPE is set to lose its contract with the government to operate the service which should connect cities and towns across the North of England and Scotland. In the midst of high numbers of train cancellations and an unpredictable service which has caused problems for commuters, the company is now trying to blame train drivers for its failures.
A friend of the company went on breakfast TV this morning and said a lot of things that are simply untrue - making a difficult situation harder to resolve.
Attempts to blame workers
TPE is trying to blame train drivers for its failure to provide passengers with the service it promised. The company receives payment from the taxpayer to operate the service but is unable to deliver. It's a disgrace that instead of telling the truth, TPE is trying to spin passengers and stakeholders lies.
We believe this is a blatant attempt by owners FirstGroup to limit their reputational damage. It comes right after the problems - again of the company's own making - on Avanti West Coast.
Hiring enough drivers
The company says it has enough drivers but that's simply not true. If it did, there would be no need to ask drivers to work on their days off (an arrangement called rest day working). TPE has failed to recruit and train the drivers it needs to run the service.
Rest day working on the railway is for training and recruitment purposes - not to help the company put a sticking plaster on problems caused by its inept management.
Andy Hourigan, ASLEF’s lead officer for TPE, has also spoken about the poor industrial relations between the company and ASLEF:
'We have problems every day because this is a company which doesn’t know how to behave properly, manage well, or how to run a railway.
'The company talks about RDW but we have not had a meeting with TPE about RDW this year. Since long before Christmas, in fact.'
Rest day working agreement
ASLEF's rest day working (RDW) agreement with TPE was originally cancelled in 2021 because the company went back on agreed safety protocols during lockdown, putting our members at risk.
The reason there's no agreement now is because the company is not doing any training and recruitment.
Where it's gone wrong
ASLEF understands that TPE is set to have their contract taken away. General Secretary Mick Whelan has said that 'the bosses and the managers at TPE should take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror if they know want to know where it has all gone wrong and who is really to blame.'
We've been here before
Back in November, TPE were trying to blame drivers and we called them out then too:
Transpennine Express are trying to blame drivers for their poor service - which has seen hundreds of cancellations across the North of England.— ASLEF (@ASLEFunion) October 28, 2022
In reality they haven't hired enough drivers, and claims that the DfT can just 'sign off' rest day working aren't true.
TPE have also been caught out using 'p-coding' to disguise the number of cancellations on their services:
Shocking report showing the managed decline of the rail industry - TPE using 'p-coding' to hide cancellation figures.— ASLEF (@ASLEFunion) January 11, 2023
When combined with on-the-day cancellations, it means between a fifth and a quarter of all TPE trains being regularly cancelled.https://t.co/wMM8AZWsHV
And MPs have raised the issue of poor rail services in the North repeatedly in Parliament:
As Shadow Transport Secretary @LouHaigh set out yesterday in Parliament, the rail service in the North is in meltdown.— ASLEF (@ASLEFunion) December 2, 2022
The Tories try to blame rail workers but the industry is broken and the pursuit of profit leads to bad decisions. pic.twitter.com/lSky3xLC7g
A railway to be proud of
As always, ASLEF is calling for a fully funded, publicly owned and operated railway that is run for people and communities - not for profit.
It has been proven time and time again that a fragmented system with privateers seeking to make profit out of this vital public service does not work.
We'll keep fighting for the future of our industry.