Avanti West Coast: Euston rail operator given another six months to improve

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Avanti operates services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Banger and Birmingham.

A rail operator which runs services from Euston has been given another six months to shape up.

Avanti West Coast’s new contract will run until October 15, having been put on a short-term contract last July, due to run until March 31, and told to improve.

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The company operates services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Banger, Preston and Birmingham.

The Department for Transport said today that the decision to extend comes following “significant improvements” including running 40% more services and cancellations falling to 4.2% .

It said further improvements will be needed over the next six months.

Short-term contract

In July 2022 the operator was put on a short-term contract and ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed to address poor performance on West Coast Main Line routes, including between Manchester, Birmingham and London.

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Shortly after being placed on the contract, the Transport Secretary travelled to Manchester to meet with stakeholders.

A recovery timetable was introduced on December 11 and the amount of overtime working by drivers it needed has been reduced. Drivers withdrew the overtime it relied on in the summer.

Services have increased from 180 trains per day to 264 on weekdays – the highest level in over two years.

Cancellations have reduced from nearly 25% of the service in August, to 4.2% in early March.

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The government said 90% of trains now arrive within 15 minutes of the booked time.

More than 100 new drivers have been recruited.

Transport secretary Mark Harper

“The routes Avanti West Coast run are absolutely vital, and I fully understand the frustrations passengers felt at the completely unacceptable services seen last autumn,” said transport secretary Mark Harper.

“Following our intervention, rail minister Huw Merriman and I have worked closely with local leaders to put a robust plan in place, which I’m glad to see is working.

“However, there is still more work to be done to bring services up to the standards we expect, which is why over this next six months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.”

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An Avanti  West Coast mainline train. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)An Avanti  West Coast mainline train. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
An Avanti West Coast mainline train. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Further work needed

The government says further work needs to be done to improve reliability and punctuality.

It said the company must deliver more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption.

The Transpennine Express contract expires on May 28 and will be considered separately with a further announcement in due course.

Avanti West Coast

Avanti West Coast has announced Andy Mellors’ appointment as its new managing director, taking over from Steve Montgomery.

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Graham Sutherland, chief executive of parent company FirstGroup PLC, said: “We are working closely with government and our partners across the industry to deliver a successful railway for our customers and communities.

“Performance at Avanti is steadily improving and since the introduction of the new timetable in mid-December, the number of services operated has increased by more than 40% compared to last summer, with more seats and better frequencies.

“Today’s agreement allows our team to continue their focus on delivering their robust plans to continue enhancing services for our customers, including further progress on our train upgrade and refurbishment programme.”

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