A RAIL operator has been given a month to turn around a struggling service.

Transport for the North has set TransPennine Express a ‘public target’ for its performance recovery.

The move follows a period late last year when the operator returned the worst performance figures in the country, sometimes with less than half their services meeting basic performance targets.

TPE services suffered badly as the operator struggled to introduce new trains which arrived late into service and which experienced teething problems.

Now, Transport for the North says it expects TPE to deliver a service that restores passenger trust and rebuilds confidence in the railway as it sets benchmark performance targets.

The operator is expected to return performance to early 2019 levels by March, improve further on this target by summer, show clear progress in restoring its full timetable and show clear progress in timely local communication to passengers.

Strategic rail director for Transport for the North, David Hoggarth, said: “Passengers in the North of England must have a rail service they can rely on. In the run-up to Christmas last year TPE simply failed to provide what was needed.

“The operator must now build back trust and deliver what is needed. The new trains are welcome, and the extra capacity they bring is much needed, but service levels must be maintained as they come on stream.”

Transport for the North has said the first milestone should be for TPE’s performance in March to reach the level achieved in the first half of 2019, assessed against what is known as the Public Performance Measure, a measure of punctuality and reliability.

In the first half of 2019, the median daily PPM stood at 86 per cent, but by November, at some points, TPE’s performance stood as low as 45 per cent.

After TPE removed a number of services because of the late introduction of new rolling stock, Transport for the North now expects the operator to demonstrate clear progress in restoring a full timetable as the trains come into service, while protecting the reliability, capacity and resilience of existing services.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Hard-working local people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool rightly demand a reliable, high-quality rail service, unfortunately TransPennine Express has consistently let down local people. While I welcome this latest target TPE must go further, faster so that people across my region can once again have confidence in the service they are meant to provide.”

As part of the recovery plan, Transport for the North expects TPE to demonstrate clear evidence of better communications to passengers, in real time.

Leo Goodwin, managing director of TransPennine Express said: “We absolutely agree that our customers should benefit from improved performance. We have been very open about the fact that this was nowhere near good enough before Christmas and we have apologised to our customers for this.

“Since the start of the year we have made a number of changes which has seen our performance improve, but we know that there is more to be done. At the start of February, we reintroduced the majority of services that we had temporarily removed, with the remainder of these services to be introduced next week. Performance this past week has been severely affected by the extreme weather that impacted the whole of the transport industry and we are working hard to recover from this. We continue with our plans, which sees even more new trains on our network, an increase in capacity and improving our customers journeys.”