Avanti West Coast given short-term contract renewal by Government

The decision to give Avanti West Coast a short-term contract renewal has been described as a “slap in the face” by the train drivers’ union.

Kevin Lindsay, an organiser from Aslef, has criticised the UK Government’s decision to extend the rail firm’s contract until April 1 next year to improve its services following a reduction of its trains in the summer.

The contract was originally due to expire on October 16.

Mr Lindsay said in a statement: “[In] the train operating companies, Avanti are amongst the worst, failing their employees and the public alike. To reward their consistent failure by extending their contract for the London to Glasgow service is nothing more than a slap in the face to passengers and staff.

Avanti West Coast has been placed on a short-term contract renewal by the Government after it provided an “unacceptable” service to rail users.Avanti West Coast has been placed on a short-term contract renewal by the Government after it provided an “unacceptable” service to rail users.
Avanti West Coast has been placed on a short-term contract renewal by the Government after it provided an “unacceptable” service to rail users.
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“This was an opportunity to return a vital transport service to public hands and to be run in the public interest. The decision to award this extension must be called in and reversed urgently.”

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Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh also described the extension of the contract as a “slap in the face for passengers”.

Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, meanwhile, praised the Government for taking action, but warned he was “hugely concerned” about its “failing service” lasting a further six months.

He said: “Putting Avanti West Coast on notice marks a significant shift in tone under the new secretary of state.

“At last, there is a clear recognition of the crisis engulfing the country’s most important railway line and the management failure that has led to that.

“However, the lack of an acceptable rescue plan from the company – and clear conditions from the Government – means very few people in Greater Manchester will support this extension.”

Mr Burnham added: “The damage that Avanti’s failing service is inflicting on our economy, and the huge disruption to passengers, is completely unacceptable.

“The company has shown itself to be unable to stabilise their service and fix problems with ticketing and the on-board experience for passengers.”

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The company reduced its timetable from seven trains per hour to a minimum of four per hour on August 14.

Trains were removed from the timetable in August to cut short-notice cancellations after a sharp decline in the number of drivers voluntarily working on rest days for extra pay.

The Department for Transport said nearly 100 additional drivers would have entered formal service this year between April and December, meaning more services had started to be added as new drivers became available to work.

It said the company was planning to increase from around 180 trains per day to 264 per day on weekdays, as more drivers become available and recruitment continues, and is extending booking options for passengers.

Last month, Avanti West Coast published a plan to reinstate some services on certain days from September 27.

Timetables on other days were due to be boosted “as soon as possible” ahead of another increase on December 11.

Transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Services on Avanti have been unacceptable and while the company has taken positive steps to get more trains moving, it must do more to deliver certainty of service to its passengers.”

FirstGroup, which co-owns Avanti West Coast in a joint venture with Italy’s Trenitalia, said it was “committed” to providing services that meet people’s needs.