Rail Minister Huw Merriman has said that nationalising Transpennine Express was the right decision after cancellation rates fell dramatically at the troubled rail service.
The operator, which covered regions in the north of England and Scotland, had been hit by overtime bans from train drivers who were members of the ASLEF union. Figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that Transpennine Express cancellations were the highest in the country between January and March.
However, while Merriman admitted it was difficult period for the operator just after it was taken over by the state, the rate of cancellations has fallen since it struck a deal with ASLEF.
“It was difficult early days, because its very unsettling, so the cancellation rate actually towards the end of May was back up to 26 per cent, but with the rest day agreement in place, when there’s not action short of a strike, that cancellation rate has gone down to 5 per cent,” the Tory minister told MPs today.
“I believe that that was the right decision to make… I believe the evidence backs it up now,” he added.
Merriman was facing questions alongside the interim managing director of the Transpennine Franchise Chris Jackson.
Jackson said there had been some “turbulence” during the transition but echoed that improvements had been made following the new rest-day agreement with the rail union.
“We’ve had seven weeks when cancellations were 5 per cent or below. In fact, we’ve delivered some of our best performance in 18 months,” he said.
The ORR will reveal its latest performance data for the rail industry next week.