ASLEF: Train Drivers' Union Sets the Record Straight
Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has spoken out after the train company TransPennine Express, which is about to have its contract taken away, sent a misleading letter to stakeholders and a friend of the company spun ‘a tissue of lies’ on breakfast television this morning [Friday 27 January].
Mick said: ‘TPE is, we understand, set to lose its franchise, or contract, as they are now called, and is trying to blame us for its failures which are peculiarly its own. A friend of the company went on breakfast TV this morning and said a lot of things that are simply not true. This does not help resolve what is already a difficult situation – not just for staff but for the passengers who depend on a service which the company is not providing.
‘TPE is trying to blame train drivers for its failure to provide passengers across the north of England and Scotland with the service it promised, and is contracted, to provide. It is an utter disgrace that this company is unable to deliver a service for which it is paid handsomely by the taxpayer and now, instead of telling the truth about its own failures, chooses to tell passengers and stakeholders a tissue of lies.’
Mick added: ‘It is a clear and blatant attempt by FirstGroup, which owns TPE, to limit the reputational fallout and damage and comes after the problems – again, of its own making – on Avanti West Coast.
‘The company says it has enough drivers. That’s not true. TPE does not have enough drivers. Because, if it did, it would not need rest day working. But it doesn’t. TPE has consistently failed to recruit and retain the drivers it needs to run the services it should.
‘Rest day working on the railway is for training and recruitment purposes – not to help the company put a sticking plaster over problems caused by its inept and hapless management – and run its normal timetable.’
Andy Hourigan, ASLEF’s lead officer for TPE, is only too well aware of just how poor its managers are.
Andy said: ‘I have spent a lifetime on the railway – my whole career – and TPE is the worst company with which I have had to deal. Relations between employers and employees are at an all-time low. 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. It’s all smoke and mirror from a company that wants to blame anyone else for its manifest failures and problems. Which are entirely of its own making.’
Mick Whelan explained: ‘The RDW agreement we had with TPE was originally cancelled in 2021 because the company unilaterally ripped up safety protocols during lockdown – putting our members at risk. The reason the company doesn’t have one now is because it is not doing any training and recruitment.
‘TPE is, we understand, set for the chop – they know that – and Huw Merriman, the Rail Minister, will announce that in the not too distant future. 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.’
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