Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (March 5th 2014) warned that there could be a threat of ‘imminent cuts’ to the Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport Trans-Pennine rail service as a result of a bungle by the Department for Transport which will see a large number of train sets used on Trans-Pennine services taken out of use and sent down to add extra passenger capacity to a rail line in the South of England.
The trains will move from April 2015 in a lease agreement. First Trans-Pennine Express (TPE) leases nine of 70 trains that will be transferred as Chiltern Railways required additional trains for its services. However, First Trans-Pennine Express said it has rights to the trains from 1 April 2015 as its current franchise ends.
“It is absolutely outrageous that carriages that are in use in the North on our railways are now apparently to be transferred to Chiltern Railways – a line that by sheer chance happens to serve the Prime Minister’s own constituency area.”
“This is absolutely unacceptable. There is clearly a threat here to Middlesbrough services. If the managers of Trans-Pennine Express lose these train sets, they will clearly move to protect their core and heavily used services between Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. This could mean that outlying branches of the Trans-Pennine network, such as the current service from Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport could be early losers. This will mean Teesside being effectively taken off the mainline rail map of England.”
“It seems that the Transport Department are saying that First Trans-Pennine Express has “no contractual rights” for these nine trains from 1 April 2015, when its current franchise ends – but that TPE disagree on this. It also seems that the Government are saying they will look to lease replacement train sets for the TPE services, but they give no timetable for this. More worryingly still, is the prospect that these might well turn out to be 30 year old time expired ‘pacers’ such as are used on local services here on Teesside. These are uncomfortable enough when someone is making a short trip from Saltburn to Middlesbrough, and the thought of having to use them for a long trip to the other side of the country is a nightmare.”