I’m back home from a New Year holiday and am disappointed to note TransPennine Express are still in difficulties with their new service at Morpeth supposed to have been launched in full on 15th December 2019 and then promised everything would be working as scheduled by 5th January 2020. The ongoing delay surely means the problems TPE have are much bigger than they first made out and it is difficult to believe no-one in TPE foresaw this before the 2 or 3 days notice SENRUG were given immediately prior to the anticipated 15th December launch. This seems like a case of back to the School of Basic Project Management for TPE Managers. Meanwhile, Northern have been red-carded by the DfT who are now discussing early termination of their contract or transfer to a service contract. I have mixed views on this because I do feel their problems with both the May 2017 timetable fiasco and the long and damaging RMT dispute were due to circumstances beyond their control. However, more recently; there has been a woeful lack of focus on getting the CIS and light faults at Morpeth fixed. Someone has clearly put the CIS problem in the too hard box and this is just not good enough. Furthermore, Northern have been cancelling alternate trains on the Morpeth line – a point quoted in The Independent in their write-ups of what’s been going wrong (and they didn’t get this from me) and such cancellations have denied Cramlington – the largest town in Northumberland with a rail service – of its solitary hourly train. More positively, Transport Minister Grant Shapps has, I hear, visited Northumberland and other locations in the North East whilst I’ve been away so we are hoping we’re still on track for a positive decision on the Ashington Blyth & Tyne re-opening funding bid – decision expected in March. Congratulations to SENRUG Deputy Chair Andrew Carmichael for his brief TV News appearance talking on the need to just crack on with the re-opening quickly, in response to Mr Shapps’ visit. It’s more nerve-racking than it looks to go on TV – even if the finished piece is cut down to a few seconds, so the fact Andrew was able and willing to step in whilst I was abroad demonstrates we have a good committee team here at SENRUG.