Northern Powerhouse Partnership director attacks TransPennine

 
FirstGroup’s TransPennine franchise began in April 2016

 
A representative of major business interests in the North of England has criticised FirstGroup over its “absolutely shocking” stewardship of the TransPennine Express franchise.

The attack came from a director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership think-tank, which is chaired by former chancellor George Osborne. Speaking at last week’s North of England Transport Summit in Manchester, Henri Murison said: “I think people like [TransPennine boss] Leo Goodwin and others from the industry have a lot to answer for … For their lack of understanding of the passenger voice, for the way they treat stakeholders like our elected politicians through Transport for the North and Rail North partnership, and the business people in the north who will opt to drive between Leeds and Manchester because their service is so shocking.

Running trains to Edinburgh when you can’t run a train from Huddersfield to Leeds is something you should all be ashamed of

“Some of that is down to infrastructure, so we need TRU [Transpennine Route Upgrade] to be delivered. But running trains to Edinburgh when you can’t run a train from Huddersfield to Leeds is something you should all be ashamed of.”

FirstGroup’s TransPennine franchise began in April 2016 with a pledge to extend services beyond Newcastle to Edinburgh from 2019. However, the company has been beset by performance problems, and the Autumn 2019 National Rail Passenger Survey found that 25% of its users were dissatisfied with the punctuality/reliability of their service.

Murison, who is himself a regular user of TransPennine services, said FirstGroup’s tenure of the franchise had so far been “absolutely shocking” and he called on the group to work hard to repair its reputation.

Reflecting on the secretary of state for transport decision to strip Arriva of the Northern franchise and bring the operation in-house, he said: “I think at the moment we’ve probably nationalised the wrong operator.”

Whereas the situation at Northern “is all to do with infrastructure” and “was quite well run”, he said TransPennine was “all to do with poor management”.

 
This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport

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