TransPennine Express has confirmed that it will be unable to introduce its new service between Liverpool and Glasgow as introduction of new trains, originally scheduled to begin during 2018 continues to be delayed.
The new three trains a day service was initially due to begin in December 2018 before May 2019 was announced as the new start date. The company now states: “We are fully committed to bringing in a new direct service between Liverpool and Glasgow as soon as we can in during autumn 2019. It is a disappointing delay, but it is the right decision to make and once the service launches, it will certainly be worth the wait.”
Unfortunately for TPE, and beyond its control, delivery, testing and acceptance of the new trains being supplied by CAF has fallen significantly behind the schedules promised by the manufacturer when the orders were placed. Industry sources also confirm that, as with other new train programmes in the UK, ever more complex and onerous restrictions being placed on manufacturers and TOCs by the Office of Rail and Road are making it increasingly difficult to obtain approval for trains to be put into passenger service. These delays have now had an impact on the TPE driver training programme meaning that even if the company was able to accept the new trains into its fleet before the May 2019 timetable change it would not have a large enough pool of trained drivers to support the introduction of the new service.
Rather than bring in the new trains one by one TPE will employ a staged programme where groups of diagrams switch to new rolling stock as the resources become available. The focus will now be on having the majority of the new trains in service by the end of 2019.
Recommendations made by Richard George that the May 2019 timetable should only see ‘limited’ schedule changes have been taken on board by TransPennine Express and the TOC is now focussing on a small number of timetable adjustments which it believes will deliver improvements in performance whilst the industry works towards the December 2019 timetable when more significant service improvements may be introduced. At a recent conference Transport for the North confirmed that Network Rail is currently assessing around 30 different options for improving the capacity and performance of the route through Manchester known as the “Castlefield Corridor” and it expects to be able to announce its preferred options in summer 2019.
Words by Tony Miles