Agenda item

RNP Operational Update

To receive an update on rail operational matters and updates from the operators and Network Rail.

Lead: Gary Bogan


5.1             Members received the report from the Rail North Partnership Director who explained that this had continued to be a difficult period for rail including for the two operators in the North.  This is because of high level of staff absence, Industrial Relations issues and the absence of Rest Day Working which had been used to help clear the driver training backlog. 


He highlighted a letter that had been received from ASLEF about an error in his previous report to the Committee on the issue of Industrial relations and explained that he will write to Mr. Whelan to clarify his point following the meeting.


5.2          Ms. Tricia Williams explained that there is a recovery on rail but demand is supressed.  She stated that the industry is working within financial constraints and is beginning to see some inflationary pressures on costs, and this coupled with industrial relations issues is beginning to impact on service delivery. 


She explained that the May timetable has now been introduced with the focus on reliability and certainty for customers including reducing short term cancellations. 

She then outlined Northern’s progress during the recovery.  She explained that demand is now at 88% of pre covid, with commuter demand beginning to improve, and leisure and weekends being the strongest areas of recovery.

She updated the committee on the current situation regarding industrial relations.

Members were updated on training which is being impacted by having no Rest Day Agreement. It was highlighted that there were a total of 9000 days to be completed.

5.3          Mr. Matt Golton provided an update on TPE’s recovery with demand currently 75% of pre covid levels  but revenue at 85%.


He then addressed current performance levels and the impact these are having on customers, communities and colleagues.  He stated that current performance levels are not acceptable and wants to get back to pre winter performance levels. He outlined the challenges they are facing which include higher than usual sickness levels, loss of driver Rest Day wWrking, the RMT dispute and driver training backlogs.

5.4          Mr. Matthew Rice explained that the single biggest impact on performance is the actions of external people, this includes trespassing and theft of copper cable with these having a detrimental impact on services. He informed the Committee that good progress is being made on the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) and on East Coast Main Line enhancements. 

5.5          Members raised with the operators a number of issues relevant to their areas.


5.6          Mayor Driscoll explained that it is the job of Committee Members to develop economic prosperity for their areas and a key element to enabling them to do so is having a functioning transport system which the current situation with the transport system across the North is making this difficult to do. He appealed for there to be adequate investment in the rail industry and urged the Government to fix this because a modern levelled up Northern economy can’t be achieved without adequate investment in the rail system.


5.7          Cllr Hinchcliffe raised the issue that short term cancellations and reliability issues on TPE are having on people.  She also looked for assurances from Northern that the full timetable will be restored by December  without any changes or  cancellations from existing services and without Covid being used as an excuse. She explained that many people living in the North need to travel into work and therefore time needs to be given for these services to build up their patronage and help local economies to thrive.


In response, Mr.Golton recognised that TPE’s performance has been unacceptable.  He stated that major reasons for the issues being experienced is due to the loss of flexibility as a result of the dispute with RMT colleagues and the loss of rest day working.  He assured the committee that they are working as hard as possible to try and achieve a breakthrough with unions on the industrial relations.

Ms. Tricia Williams stated Northern’s commitment to re-instating services, but that they may need be utilised differently [post-covid].

5.8          Cllr Browne brought to the attention of the Committee that disabled passengers are being left on platforms at Poynton, he stated that he had received a number of e-mails from residents on this issue.  He believes that this is occurring due to a lack of capacity on the trains by the time it arrives in his area.


Ms. Williams stated that she will look into this and get back to him.

Mayor Burnham expressed frustration that the same conversations are being repeated and that the people of the North don’t have a reliable railway.  He stated that the current issues have been going on for a while and questioned who is taking responsibility for sorting the situation so that the people of the North can have a reliable rail service.

He further stated the need for consistent performance levels and not one where there are patches of good performance followed by a collapse.

Whilst sympathising with operators that some of the issues being experienced are out of their control he added many aren’t. He highlighted the lack of infrastructure and how they are unable to support the timetable ambitions of the Committee.  He also questioned what the industry is doing to create a more reliable railway for the North when they are struggling to run reliable services on a reduced timetable. 

In response to Mayor Burnham Ms. Williams stated that she is unable to put a timescale on improvements but explained that they are working hard to ensure that there is a focus on training as they believe this is the key to enabling them to work more flexibly and allow them to deploy resources where required in order to restore services. 

On the issue of industrial relations she stated this is not in their power but they are working hard to find resolutions to the issues. 

5.9          Mr. Golton stated that they need to recreate the stability that they had during the summer of 2021 where their performance was excellent.  He offered the Committee assurances that they are doing everything they can to achieve this.


5.10       On the issue of infrastructure Mr. Rice stated that this is one part of the jigsaw and everyone needs to work together and continue to push for sensible targeted investment and growth.


5.11       Cllr Edwards stated that it is the most disadvantaged that are most likely to suffer from cancelled services as they have no other form of transport to use.  He highlighted the impact of the industrial action on passengers and requested that the Committee and TfN adopt a robust position on the industrial action that gets all parties around the negotiating table and encourages a way forward that doesn’t require industrial action.


The Chair stated that he wants all parties to get around the table to resolve the issues urgently without placing blame on specific people in order to find a speedy solution.

5.12       The Chair highlighted the importance of a strong focus being put on the build back from Covid.  On the issue of industrial relations he further stated that it is imperative that the Government steps in, in order to avoid a national strike.  He then highlighted the need for the DfT to give ToCoperators more flexibility to negotiate on more local issues.  The Committee were informed that the Chair of TfN is due to meet with the Rail Minister and he will be asked to take the messages of the Committee with him in order that these issues can be resolved.

5.13       The Chief Executive stated that there is a strong and clear message to give when the Chair meets with the Rail Minister.  He explained that Officers continue to have dialogue with DfT and the messages from the Committee would also be relayed to them.  This item will also be included on the 30 June Board agenda.


That the report be noted.

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