Avanti West Coast rolling stock, via Istock

Avanti’s reduced timetable has drawn Andy Burnham’s ire

Avanti West Coast have recently released a limited timetable for its services that includes severely limited journeys between Manchester to London. The operator will be running as few as four trains per hour from this coming Sunday, with London Euston to Manchester reduced in frequencies from three per hour to just one.

This limited timetable has come in response to an “unofficial strike” and will be in place “until further notice” according to a representative from Avanti West Coast.

Avanti Managing Director Phil Whittingham has released a written statement claiming that "current industrial relations climate" has resulted in "severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by Aslef members".

Services between London Euston and Manchester appear to be the worst affected by the cut, with train frequencies reduced from three per hour to just one. The limited timetable will be in place "until further notice", Avanti West Coast said.

This news has been met with strong backlash due to the severe damage to links between the North and South of England, highlighting the urgent need for the rail sector and unions to find middle ground in their ongoing dispute. Mr Whittingham has urged the rail unions to "engage in meaningful industry reform talks around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century.”

Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has addressed the news following a meeting with the senior management of Avanti West Coast on Wednesday 17th August, stating:

“Today we met Avanti to discuss the downgrading of the timetable for its services between Greater Manchester and London.

“We made clear to them in no uncertain terms our deep unhappiness at the way in which our city-region has been treated.

“The severe reduction of services at this time of year is seriously detrimental to our economy. Avanti’s decision to take this action without any prior consultation or even notification shows a lack of respect for our city-region and its people, businesses and visitors

“We have asked Avanti to produce a recovery plan that helps passengers in the short-term, but which also commits to providing more trains per hour between Greater Manchester and London as quickly as possible.

“In the immediate term, we have asked Avanti to consider the declassification of trains – suspending first class restrictions – to make more seats available on the booking system at an affordable price.

“We also called for much clearer communications with customers about how and when to purchase tickets and for an end to the inflammatory language which is damaging workforce relations.

“More broadly, we asked them for a timetable to return to the previous levels of service as soon as possible and a firm commitment that we will not find ourselves in such a position ever again.

“When we receive Avanti’s plan, we will consider whether it is acceptable for our residents and businesses and, if it isn’t, we made it clear to the company that we will ask the new Prime Minister to strip them of this contract.”

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