The intercity rail operator Avanti West Coast will be increasing its services in the first stage of its recovery plan to restore passenger faith through an updated timetable, having slashed their availability in August due to driver unavailability.
Avanti will be adding around 70 extra services a week on its busiest route between London and Manchester, compared with the current timetable. This is estimated to provide an extra 40,000 seats per week on the West Coast Main Line.
This December will see a further timetable increase, including three trains between London and Manchester per hour, an additional service to the West Midlands taking services to / from Birmingham to at least half-hourly, and the return of direct services to North Wales.
The original reduced timetable came as a result of drivers being unwilling to sign up for the overtime upon which all train operators rely, forcing a plethora of short notice cancellations that led to the reductions in services. This, accompanied by the existing backlog in training fresh staff from the Covid-19 pandemic and consistent disruptions caused by ongoing industrial action, created an environment where the operator could not maintain service standards at the previous capacity.
The newly implemented extra trains follow an intensive analysis of the number of additional services that can be provided in a reliable and sustainable fashion, considering the significant number of drivers who will be entering passenger service following recruitment and training.
Starting on Tuesday 27th September, up to ten extra trains a day, over and above the existing timetable, will run between Manchester and London on both weekdays and weekends. Following these, December will see further recovery with a significant step up of the timetable. Further additional services will be added to Manchester, Birmingham and North Wales as well as maintaining regular services to Liverpool and Scotland. Overall, there will be more than 260 services a day on weekdays, compared with around 180 a day before December and 245 in May 2022.
Barry Milsom, Executive Director of Operations and Safety for Avanti West Coast, said:
“We know we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this is causing.
“The decision to reduce our timetable in August was not taken lightly but our customers and communities deserve a dependable train service, so we’ve been working hard to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable way.
“Resolving this situation required a robust plan that allows us to gradually increase services without being reliant on traincrew overtime. We are now in a position to start delivering this incremental increase in services, followed by a further increase in December. We’ll continue to review our timetable beyond December with our industry partners.
“We’re working with our people, their union representatives, and industry partners to match the resources we have to demand, so we can deliver reliable services across our network to all our customers and communities.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this period.”
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