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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Lucy Thackray

‘Basically a lottery’: Misery as TransPennine Express cancels 55 trains in one day

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The rail operator TransPennine Express has been forced to apologise after cancelling around 55 services in one day.

The 50+ cancellations, first reported by Manchester Evening News, took place on Wednesday (19 October) and mostly affected journeys to and from Manchester Piccadilly station.

TransPennine Express said the service cuts were made “as a result of ongoing issues”. Another 10 services were amended on Wednesday, with different starting or finishing points.

One passenger, Aled Williams, dubbed the operator the “Non-Pennine Express,” posting a list of 41 advance cancellations announced by the company on Wednesday.

“Surely easier to list which trains are running,” wrote one irate customer, Andy Hargreaves, on Twitter after a fellow passenger posted a two-page list of cancellations. “You know, like a timetable. They’re a disgrace.”

In September, TPE announced an amended timetable similar to Avanti West Coast’s, saying it would “provide a more stable and reliable service following recent disruption caused by a range of issues including sustained high levels of sickness and a training backlog as a direct result of Covid”.

On Tuesday, Andy Burnham tagged TPE along with Northern and Avanti West Coast in a tweet about rail services in the north of England, saying: “Appreciate there’s a lot going on but the meltdown in train services across the North of England needs more attention.”

Manchester-based passenger Bobbi Hadgraft told the BBCthis week that TPE’s customer experience left a lot to be desired. “Even if the train doesn’t get cancelled, maybe the two or three before have and you can’t sit down because you’ve got three trains’ worth of people on one train,” she said.

“They don’t add carriages on to accommodate the extra passengers, sometimes they’re shorter than they’re supposed to be, and you can be stood up for an hour and a half.”

Ms Hadgraft, who works in Old Trafford, added: “Not only are you affected by the disruption by time, but it’s also the standard of the journey – you’re crammed like sardines in the train carriage.”

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin took to Twitter to rail against the cancellations, posting a screenshot of four consecutive cancellations on Manchester services operated by TPE.

“How do we build our economy when companies are doing this?” she wrote, tagging Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

She told the BBC: “We’re fed up of being badly let down by a failing rail network that isn’t meeting our needs.

“This is especially unacceptable when our economy needs all the support it can get.”

Elsa Devienne, who travels twice weekly with the operator, also told the BBC that she had had a poor experience with the operator this month.

“Over half of my trains are either cancelled or delayed by an hour and TPE currently owes me close to £200 in delay compensation since the term started in late September,” she said.

“Travelling on TPE these days is basically a lottery, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a train arrive on time since September.”

Today, Chris from Yorkshire wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely terrible experience on @TPExpressTrains going from Manchester to Teesside.

“All trains either utterly overcrowded or cancelled. Staff not kept informed (they’re doing their best). Currently 3 hours into a supposed 2.5 hour journey, and we haven’t even got to Leeds yet.”

On Tuesday, seven services from Hull station towards Leeds and Manchester were cancelled in succession.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express told The Independent: “Disruption affecting some of our services this week has been caused by a range of issues including ongoing high levels of train crew sickness, a persisting training backlog as a direct result of Covid and infrastructure issues outside of TPE’s control.

“On Wednesday, a number of infrastructure incidents, such as a broken-down freight train on the Hope Valley line, impacted our ability to run trains. Combined, these factors have seen a number of on-the-day or ‘evening before’ cancellations being made.

“Our customers want reliable and punctual train services, and we are sorry have not been able to consistently provide that due to the ongoing issues.

“In normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled timetable – and have more drivers now than ever before – however the combination of factors has put unprecedented pressure on our ability to operate our services.”

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