A PUBLIC transport operator’s heavily criticised train services which have left scores of Barnsley commuters stranded due to last-minute cancellations will be brought under the government’s control.
TransPennine Express will not have its contract renewed on May 28, Transport Secretary Mark Harper confirmed, following months of disruption.
The operator responsible for services between Barnsley, Leeds, Sheffield and beyond was put on a so-called ‘recovery plan’ by regional mayors in February and while ‘some improvements have been noted’, the decision has been made to nationalise.
Barnsley commuters will see no change to usual services but the overall aim is to improve its performance.
It will now be run by the operator of last resort (OLR), which means a business will step in on behalf of the government to take over the management of the service.
South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “The TransPennine Express service in and out of South Yorkshire is not good enough, with up to half of all services cancelled on any given day.
“It’s so poor our communities simply can’t rely on trains to get them where they need to be, when they need to be there.
“To unlock our region’s potential we need a frequent, affordable and reliable rail network.
“We’re in a cost-of-living and an environmental crisis effective public transport is a fundamentally important part of the solution to the problems we face.
“We have written to the Secretary of State as mayors representing millions of people across the North, to reiterate our firm view that it is time for a fresh start.
“We stand ready to work with the Government to reshape our railways and make them work better for our regions.
“Moving to an operator of last resort will bring forward the change on the railways that the north desperately needs.”
Mr Harper said the change will not be a ‘silver bullet’ but said the decision was taken with commuters in mind.
He added: “In my time as Transport Secretary, I have been clear that passenger experience must always come first.
“After months of commuters and northern businesses bearing the brunt of continuous cancellations, I’ve made the decision to bring TransPennine Express into operator of last resort.
“Under operator of last resort, services will run as normal with no changes to tickets, timetables or planned services with the department committed to ensuring a seamless transition for passengers.”
Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said the operator has failed the north.
“After months of needless damage, Conservative ministers have finally accepted they can no longer defend the indefensible.
“But this endless cycle of shambolic private operators failing passengers, shows the Conservatives’ rail system is fundamentally broken.
“The next Labour government will end this sticking plaster politics by bringing our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire, ending the Tories’ failing system, and putting passengers back at the heart of our rail network.”