By Phil Marsh

Travelling to, from or via Manchester on October 10th? Then read on!

Published: 6th October

Transpennine Express drivers’ dispute to continue until next Easter

On Saturday 10 October 2015, Manchester will be hosting several major sporting events with tens of thousands of spectators expected to travel by rail to the city. The events are the England v Uruguay Rugby World Cup match at the Etihad Stadium (8pm), the Super League Grand Final match at Old Trafford (6pm) and World Championship Boxing at Manchester Arena from 5pm.

Trains are always busy on a Saturday in Manchester but this will be a seriously busy day! Trains will be overcrowded and rail authorities are advising that intending passengers follow a few sensible guidelines which will help themselves and everyone else.

Work out a Plan B if your first choice of train doesn’t work out. Plan B will be to make sure what alternative trains you can use including using a different Manchester station, for example Victoria instead of Piccadilly. Queuing systems will be in place at Manchester Piccadilly from 7pm and at Manchester Victoria from 8pm so passengers are invited to allow sufficient time to queue before boarding their train. Access to platforms and trains will be strictly controlled for your safety.

Station closures

Deansgate station will be closed from 630pm and passengers should use nearby Manchester Oxford Road station as an alternative. After 8pm, some First TransPennine Express trains from Manchester to Huddersfield, Leeds, Hull, York, Liverpool and Wigan North Western will (where possible) have extra carriages but these trains will still be very crowded. And don’t bank on catching the last train home as queues may mean some may miss it.

A few simple hints

If crossing Manchester city centre, make sure you know which route to take, tram, bus or rail. The same advice is offered for onwards travel away from stations. Other suggestions include making sure your mobile device is fully charged when you leave home and also to have a bottle of water with you. Don’t drink too much as crowded trains may mean the toilet cannot be reached - you are warned!

Extra staff will be at most stations and key tram stops in Manchester who can provide travel advice or other assistance if required.

We are sorry that your train has been cancelled due to a lack of drivers

Transpennine Express drivers are in dispute with the train company who have offered their sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused to you if your journey was cancelled due to one of our drivers not being available. Passengers may ask 'why don't we employ enough drivers?' - the simple answer is we do.

The dispute is seemingly going to carry on for some time and FTPE have explained the background to it and what is happening. Passengers will be able to use their ticket on other train operator services.

Rest day what?

FTPE explains what a 'rest day working agreement' is. A ‘rest day working agreement’ is an opportunity for train drivers to increase their salary by working overtime. Drivers can do this by covering services that are unstaffed - these services might be unstaffed due to any number of reasons, many of which are often sudden or happen with short-notice.

Rest day working is voluntary and has been this way in the rail Industry for the last century, so is nothing new. It also applies to other railway jobs, not just drivers.

Some history - What’s behind the troubles?

Two years ago, the drivers’ Union, Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), withdrew its rest day working agreement over a dispute regarding the introduction of a four-day working week for drivers.

It was agreed that an independent person would look into the feasibility of introducing a four-day working week for drivers, provided there was no impact on resource costs to our business - a rest day working agreement was reintroduced while this review was underway.

The review has been completed and established that a four-day week could not be implemented without significant costs to FTPE. ASLEF’s Executive Committee has refused to accept the conclusions of this review and have now withdrawn rest day working and will not enter any further discussions on the matter.

They have walked away from a long-term agreement that was due to expire in October 2016 and at this stage, we do not expect to regain this before the end of our franchise.

They said:

Paul Watson, Operations Director at First TransPennine Express, said: “We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to customers and fully appreciate the frustration felt at service disruptions caused because of short term driver shortages. While we do have enough drivers to run our normal timetable, there are occasions where we rely on drivers to work on their rest days, for example, to cover drivers who are restricted from driving duties on medical grounds.

“This is achieved through what is known as a 'voluntary rest day working agreement’ with the drivers. Unfortunately, the drivers’ union, ASLEF, has now ceased this agreement without notice which means we’re experiencing challenges in covering some services. Please be assured we’re doing everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum and to make sure customers are provided with travel advice in advance of their journeys.”

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