To consider the Transpennine Trains review.
Lead: Chris Jackson
4.1 The Chair introduced the item and acknowledged the difficult task that Mr Jackson and his team have inherited in order to improve the organisation, and he noted that they are getting to grips with the difficult issues. Whilst recognising the situation that they are taking over he referred to the difficulties that people of the North have been experiencing over a number of years with the railways. He stated that whilst the Committee is supportive of what they are trying to achieve he sought reassurances that any changes made in order to help them secure improvements will not turn into permanent service reductions or deterioration in service permanently.
4.2 Members received the presentation from Mr Chris Jackson who highlighted the key points within his presentation.
4.3 The Chair expressed on behalf of the Committee his appreciation to Mr Jackson for his openness and stated that the logic for what they are trying to do is clear. He believed that the presentation justified the call from the Committee to place TPE into operator of last resort measures.
The Chair sought a guarantee that any services temporarily removed will be replaced by the December 2024 timetable change.
4.4 Mayor Driscoll highlighted the improvement in industrial relations and plans for economic growth.
He requested the plans and details on how full service will be restored, particularly in ensuring more than one train an hour travels from the North East to Liverpool.
4.5 Regarding incentivising the public to use trains, Cllr Hinchcliffe sought assurance that should they go down this route that they will be able to tolerate the increased demand. She also sought reassurance that they would not run three-car trains. Regular reviews were requested to help facilitate a return to full service more quickly than by a year’s time.
She then expressed concern at the removal of the Nova 3 trains stating that this could hinder the return to a full service. She asked to see the rolling stock plans for the North.
4.6 Building on Members comments, the Chair raised a number of issues including service standards and whether the commitment to restore the timetable fully by December 2024 is contingent on anything else. On the issue of rolling stock whilst understanding the reasoning behind the proposal he expressed concern about losing modern stock and it not being replaced. He asked that no final decision be made on the Nova 3s withdrawal until the Committee has been presented with a complete plan for rolling stock across the organisation going forward.
4.7 In response to the Committee’s comments Mr Jackson stated that he is happy to be held to account on the delivery and performance against the objectives in the plan.
Addressing concerns on the return to a full timetable by December 2024 he explained that the plan has an element of reliance on rest day working and assumes that the national picture on industrial relations won’t deteriorate. He explained that this has been mapped into some of the plans and as long there is stability, he is confident of a return to a full timetable by December 2024. He stated that this may be earlier in late Summer 2024 subject to the completion of training.
The Committee was informed that an agreement had been reached with TfN and the Rail North Partnership for the plan progress to be reviewed every two months.
Mr Jackson stated that incentives will be used to help show the public that there is a stable and reliable service. He highlighted that even if the Nova 3s are removed the fleet is 60% bigger than it was in 2018 with plenty of spare capacity to sell. He explained that capacity modelling has been done to inform the decision making on the Nova 3s.
4.8 The Chief Executive requested that political input be included in the decision making process on the Nova 3s and asked that this matter be brought back to the Committee.
The Chair stated that this reflected his view and highlighted that the current process has not factored in the views of the committee and political leaders. Whilst acknowledging that the ultimate decision may be for Government he wants the Committee to be sighted on any recommendation going to Government.
4.9 Mr Jackson provided further detail on the considerations given regarding the removal of the Nova 3s. He explained that these trains have been underutilised and of the thirteen sets they have they are only ever able to deploy a maximum of six in traffic and because of driver competency gaps, often only two can be operational in passenger service. He advised that these trains contribute to operational complexity and warned that reintroducing them at the wrong time could destabilise the business.
4.10 The Chair noted the comments and stated that the enhancements that have been won for the North will not be given up lightly and the Committee will be unwilling to see standards slip on the railway in the north. He asked which train will be able to deliver the same level of modernity as the Nova 3.
4.11 Addressing the issue of the three-car service Mr Jackson stated that these will still be in operation at the start of the December 2023 timetable together with 5 and 6 car trains; however, the number of carriages being used will be linked to demand.
4.12 On the issue of rest working Mayor Driscoll sought assurance that this will only be used for training purposes and to cover sickness rather than for routine operation.
Mr Jackson stressed that rest day working should only be for the short-term, explaining that TPE like other operators will only be using it for service coverage and training. He informed the Committee that it has been built into the plans for beyond March 2024, should an extension be granted, as this will enable them to arrive at December 2024 in an extremely strong position.
4.13 The Rail North Partnership Director clarified that the Secretary of State and Minister of Transport want the Committee to be fully involved with any decisions on the Nova 3s and the general rolling stock.
4.14 Cllr Mitchell enquired if the removal of the Nova 3s will impact on any particular area disproportionately; Mr Jackson confirmed that the main impact would be between Scarborough and Manchester.
That the presentation and the Committee’s comments be noted.