The UK Government taking control of TransPennine Express services is “not enough in itself” to improve performance, Scotland’s transport minister has said.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced the move on Thursday, following months of delays and cancellations to services, which cross into Scotland.
Graham Sutherland, chief executive of the company’s owner FirstGroup, said the firm had “worked extremely hard to improve services”, but the decision was made for the Government to use its powers as the operator of last resort to take control.
Kevin Stewart, who as transport minister is responsible for Scotland’s nationalised rail operator ScotRail, said change will not just come with UK Government control, urging ministers to take action to improve services.
“TransPennine Express services have been unacceptably poor for far too long,” he said.
“Therefore, the Scottish Government welcomes the decision to take the contract into public sector control. However, a change of ownership is not enough in itself – what matters is real change to performance levels.
“This is just the latest example of a broken franchise system and long overdue reform. That is why the Scottish Government has already acted by taking rail passenger services we own back into public sector operation. With fully devolved rail powers, we could go even further to meet the needs of all rail users in Scotland.”
Mr Stewart went on to say he “fully expects” services which cross the border to continue, and he urged the UK Government to focus on fixing the issues.
“I look for assurance that the Department for Transport will focus on service improvement and not cuts to the already poor service,” he said.
“My officials remain ready to co-operate on the development of these services for the benefit of communities in Scotland and connectivity with the north of England.”
Scottish Labour MSP for South Scotland Colin Smyth said: “This is a decision that should have been made years ago by the UK Government.
“For too long they have been rewarding failure by constantly given this failed franchise contract after contract when they have been so badly letting down passengers.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Jill Reilly said: “TransPennine passengers are angry that services are being cancelled and the Conservatives’ failure to stop industrial action is making things worse.
“Years ago the Conservatives promised to fix railway services, promising that the new ‘Great British Railways’ would take control and stop disruption, but they have badly failed rail travellers.”