Great Britain

Ben Houchen writes to Northern Rail and TransPennine Express

A NORTH-EAST politician has blasted Northern Rail after pacer trains were seen operating on Teesside's routes despite being banned from December 15.

The Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has written an open letter to the managing director of Northern Rail, David Brown, expressing his disappointment that the Class 142 has remained in service.

At the same time, Mr Houchen has also wrote to the managing director of TransPennine Express, Leo Goodwin slamming the firm's 'significantly late running' and cancellation of services in the region.

The Northern Echo:

In his letter to Northern Rail, Mr Houchen said: "I have repeatedly been told that the Pacers would be off the tracks by the New Year and I was informed last week that the last one would leave Darlington Station on December 15."

In May this year, North-East MP Andy McDonald called the Northern franchise a "failure in every possible sense", while Mr Houchen said he welcomed a firm that could "do a better job."

On Friday, his open letter continued to read: "I have subsequently been informed, by quite rightly disgruntled local constituents, that this has not been the case - I find this completely unacceptable."

The Northern Echo:

Mr Houchen went on to demand an explanation from company bosses, adding that the performance of Northern had been "unacceptable" and noted by Transport for the North.

In his second open letter, writing to Mr Goodwin of TransPennine Express, Mr Houchen criticised the performance of services after a claiming around 18 percent of services were cancelled per day.

In his letter to the director, he said: "By your own admission, you state that recent performance has not been at the acceptable level. However, reliability is particularly bad, and I have received a considerable amount of complaints from constituents due to cancellations. 

"It's my understanding that the reason is a short-term issue due to some drivers from current services being required to train on new rolling stock that is not yet operational.

"The result has been significantly late running and both partial and full cancellations of services on the TPE routes to Middlesbrough and Darlington."

The letter went on to say TransPennine Express' running of services in the region had led to inconvenience for passengers in the Tees Valley, who he said "deserve much, much better."

Earlier this week, The Northern Echo contacted Northern Rail after we understood pacer trains were still being used despite the 'ban'.

A spokesperson for Northern Rail defended the continued operation of the Pacer train and said: "This week we have removed more than 50 Pacers from the Northern network. In the North East there are no plans to operate Pacers on Northern services.

“We have, however, retained a small number of Pacers which may be used in exceptional circumstances to help to avoid cancelling services.”

In response, Leo Goodwin, Managing Director for TransPennine Express said: “I am really sorry for the disruption to our customers journeys. 

"I know what a busy time it is whether people are trying to get to work, trying to get home to see school plays, visiting loved ones or trying to go out and enjoy their Christmas parties.

“Due to a number of issues with crew training caused by the late delivery of some of our new trains, a maintenance backlog and some infrastructure issues we have had to implement a temporary timetable, cancelling a number of journeys along one of our routes. 

"This has unfortunately made a number of other services a lot busier. We are working really hard to sort this for our customers and as we introduce more new trains we should see an improvement to people’s journeys.”