A train operator will cancel more than 23,000 services this year if reliability remains at current levels, according to new analysis.
The figure for TransPennine Express (TPE) was released by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, who urged the Government to “get a grip”.
Ms Brabin and Transport Secretary Mark Harper are among the speakers at the annual conference of Transport for the North (TfN) – which advises the Government on the region’s transport needs – in Newcastle on Monday.
Office of Rail and Road data shows TPE cancelled 1,781 services during the most recent four-week reporting period to February 4.
Analysis by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority found a total of 23,153 services will be cancelled by the FirstGroup-owned company this year if the rate continues.
TPE runs trains across northern England and into Scotland.
Its passengers have suffered from delays and cancellations over the past year, partly due to train drivers no longer volunteering to work paid overtime shifts.
An offer aimed at restoring rest day working was rejected by union Aslef.
Ms Brabin said: “Without improvement there could be an appalling 23,000 cancellations inflicted on northern rail commuters this year by TransPennine Express.
“This is shocking, and the Government must hear our calls, finally get a grip and bring this situation under control.
“A fully functioning public transport network is crucial to our plans to boost the economy, achieve our climate ambitions and provide people with the opportunity to get on in life.
“Without action people will lose jobs, our youngsters will miss vital opportunities, and the northern economy will go off the rails.”
A TPE spokesman said the operator “worked hard with the Department for Transport to improve the offer on overtime working for our drivers”.
He went on: “At almost £500 per shift, it is deeply disappointing this offer was rejected out of hand by Aslef.
“This offer for overtime working stands comparison with rates across the industry.
“We hope the union will reconsider and put the offer to its members, who we hope would support it.
“We know the service levels over the past year have not been good enough and we are pulling out all the stops to make things better.
“Restoring driver overtime is an important part of that process and we urge Aslef to act in the interests of the members, the customers and the communities across our network and accept the offer on the table in order to enable a rapid reduction in train cancellations.”
Henri Murison, chief executive of business group the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said he would be late for the TfN conference as the 8.52am train from Leeds to Newcastle was cancelled due to drivers not working on rest days.
I’m afraid having dropped kids at breakfast club that I won’t be getting to @Transport4North in time. As happens to so many commuters & people travelling for work every day my service was cancelled last night. The question is why – & the answer is #RestDayWorking inc @ASLEFunion pic.twitter.com/W6nlFjp0Zt
— Henri Murison (@henrimurison) March 6, 2023
He wrote on Twitter: “The members of the unions in many cases want deals. As passengers we need them.”
The Department for Transport is examining the details of a recovery plan produced by TPE after ministers deemed its performance was unacceptable.
The operator’s current contract expires in May.
Ms Brabin said: “People in the North need action right now.
“I spoke to the rail minister Huw Merriman last week and he understands the challenges and the need to bring people together to find a solution.
“But, with current levels of service from TransPennine Express, it would be unthinkable for the Government to renew their contract for another eight years.
“We need trains operated by a safe pair of hands to see us through the inevitable disruption that the vitally important Transpennine Route Upgrade (TPU) will bring in the next few years.”
The TPU is a major project to enhance rail infrastructure between Manchester and York via Huddersfield and Leeds.
Asked about the TransPennine Express contract renewal, Mr Harper said: “The rail minister and I are looking very closely at the level of performance and we’ll have to make a decision about that in due course, but my guiding light will be about the services that get delivered for passengers.
“That’s what my job is about. It’s about focusing on the passenger and their experience, and that’s a message we’ve delivered clearly to those that run TransPennine Express.
“The rail minister meets them weekly, and I’ve called in their managing director to have a frank conversation, so I hope that message has landed.”