Convention of the North 2023: Andy Burnham and Northern mayors slam TransPennine Express

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has slammed TransPennine Express after months of extensive delays and cancellations.

Mr Burnham was joined by other regional mayors at the Convention of the North 2023 as they called for an urgent overhaul of northern railway services.

Speaking to press at Manchester Central, Burnham said transport is the main problem bringing negativity to the North.

He said: “From Greater Manchester’s perspective, we’re at the end of the line with the current operator of TransPennine Express.

“They cannot be allowed to damage peoples’ quality of lives and peoples’ businesses in this city region any longer.”

The Greater Manchester Mayor said it is time to put TransPennine Express under public control, allowing the North to shape a “railway that works for us”.

He added: “It’s time to reshape the railways of the North.”

TransPennine Express runs between the major cities and towns of Northern England and Scotland. Picture credit: Wikipedia Commons, Rcsprinter123

Last month, Labour demanded action over claims that 18,000 northern rail services, from Avanti and TransPennine had been “lost”.

Last week, TransPennine Express – which runs regional and inter-city rail services between Northern England and Scotland – cancelled more than 40% of its services, BBC reported.

Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, Cllr Bev Craig and NP11 Chair Roger Marsh joined Mr Burnham at the press conference.

Jamie Driscoll said if rail services were being cancelled, often with no notice, in the South of England “this would be a national outcry”.

He called for the control of the rail services to be devolved to the North collectively.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, also criticised the service, calling herself a “victim of TransPennine”.

She said: “Believe in us as the mayors, we know our communities and we are saying collectively that TransPennine is not fit for purpose.

“It must lose its franchise. Collectively, we are saying to the Government they have got to get a grip.”

The levelling up bid process, where councils submit bids to secure funding, was also a major talking point during the press conference.

In Greater Manchester, Trafford, Wigan and Oldham were successful in securing £60m worth of funds in Round Two of the Levelling Up funding. 

Manchester City Council and Salford both missed out on £20m bids to support major regeneration projects.

Cllr Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Centre, said: “For me, the problem is that the system is broken but it misses the point as to why its broken.

“Its not an effective use of our time to bid and pitch against each other.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said it was the distribution of the funding, which saw Prime Minister’s wealthy Richmond constituency secure £19m, that was the “problem”

Burnham added: “How much local government time does the government waste by constructing the process the way they did?

“The problem with the levelling up fund, it looks like civil servants don’t know or don’t care what it’s like to be in local government. 

“We want to have a single grant settlement as part of our ask for devolution like Scotland and Wales.”

Main image credit: Flickr, World Economic Forum/ Farouk Pinjo

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