Rail union bosses have backed Andy Burnham’s calls for train services run by TransPennine Express to be brought under public control.

The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester has called for the franchise to be removed from the firm, telling a Trade Union Congress (TUC) event that a decision is "imminent".

It comes after almost a fifth of train services operated by the company were cancelled last week, according to Mr Burnham.

Labour mayors across the North first called for an end to the company’s contract at a major regional conference – the Convention of the North – in Manchester earlier this year.

Since then, Avanti – which is partly owned by TransPennine Express parent company FirstGroup – has had its contract extended by the government.

But speaking at a TUC event in Manchester on Wednesday, April 12, the RMT union’s general secretary Mick Lynch said that FirstGroup "have got to go".

The trade union boss who has become a familiar face in the news since the rail strikes started last summer, said he was meeting FirstGroup for negotiations that afternoon, while ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan – the train drivers’ union boss sat next to him – would be meeting with the firm the following day.

He said: “All of us share this frustration that these pirates have got hold of our public assets, essentially, and are running them in their interests and not in the interests of the people.”

The comments were made at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester city centre where the TUC launched a new report calling for investment in public transport so it is "fit for the climate emergency".

Speaking at the event, Mr Burnham reiterated calls for the railways to be brought under public control.

Speaking of the situation with TransPennine Express, the mayor said that 19.2 per cent of services the operator was supposed to run last week were cancelled.

He said: “This decision is about to be made imminently, but we will not put up with that level of service anymore.

"This is a failing model, it should go under public control so that we start to reshape the railways in the public interest.”

The Department for Transport confirmed that no decisions have been made yet in relation to the TransPennine Express contract which is due to end on May 28.

An announcement is expected in the weeks leading up to that date.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: “Cancellations are now down by around 40 per cent since our recovery plan was introduced.

"However, in order to further substantially reduce cancellations for customers and all those who depend on the North’s connectivity, we have been trying to secure an overtime pay deal with ASLEF for drivers who wish to volunteer for additional shifts.

“Restoring overtime working for drivers at TPE will in turn, if implemented and used in the same way as before, significantly accelerate training and reduce cancellations within days of the overtime deal being enacted, which is exactly what our customers need.”