Avanti West Coast train service, via Istock

Avanti West Coast awarded six-month contract extension following improved performance

It has been announced today that Avanti West Coast’s contract has been extended by a further six months by the Department for Transport, with the news coming after a six-month spell of significant improvements since October.

The decision to extend the contract comes after the operator was put on a short-term contract and ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed at addressing poor performance on vital West Coast Main Line routes.

Closely following the short-term contract implementation, the Transport Secretary travelled to Manchester to meet with stakeholders to further understand and evaluate the existing problems with services performances, thus identifying solutions and improvements. From this, came the decision to introduce a recovery timetable which has significantly reduced reliance on overtime working and has seen services increase from 180 trains per day to 264 on weekdays – the highest level in over two years.

Following the introduction of this timetable on the 11th December, Avanti has seen improvements across all services, including:

  • Weekday services have risen to the highest level in over two years.
  • Reducing cancellations from nearly 25% of the service in August 2022, to 4.2% in early March 2023 – the lowest in over 12 months.
  • 90% of trains now arriving within 15 minutes of the booked time.
  • Over 100 additional drivers have been recruited, reducing reliance on union-controlled overtime working.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper said:

“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. 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.”

Initially, the six-month contact was implemented following major operational issues primarily caused by a shortage of available drivers and a ban on rest day and overtime working. To combat problems such as these, the Government continue to negotiate with the unions during ongoing industrial action, whilst also introducing a reliable seven day a week service to secure the future of our railways.

The progress that has been made by Avanti West Coast is notable, however there are still further improvements that need to be made if the operator aims to restore its public image through the betterment of service punctuality and reliability. To do so, Avanti must deliver more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption.

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