Avanti given six more months to run west coast mainline despite 'unacceptable' service

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Daily News | Online News

Avanti has been given another six months to run the west coast mainline rail service — but has been warned it must increase the frequency of services.

The Department for Transport’s decision to give the firm until April to turn things around comes despite ministers accepting services have been ‘unacceptable’. Yesterday (October 6) Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he would not accept a service below two trains per hour.

Over the summer, Avanti reduced trains to one per hour from the second city to London due to ‘operational difficulties’, the government said. To overcome these issues, an improvement plan has been put in place, transport minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

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“We need train services which are reliable and resilient to modern day life,” Ms Trevelyan said in a statement. “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.

“We have agreed a 6-month extension to Avanti to assess whether it is capable of running this crucial route to a standard passengers deserve and expect.”

The improvement plan implemented will see a swathe of new drivers trained, and recruiting other members of the train crew. There will also be a timetable recovery plan and a ‘significant, sustained and reliable increase from about 180 trains per day to 264 trains per day on weekdays as new and retrained drivers become available’, the DfT added.

Graham Sutherland, CEO of FirstGroup, who part own Avanti, added: “We are committed to working closely with government and our partners across the industry to deliver a successful railway that serves the needs of our customers and communities. Today’s agreement allows our team at Avanti West Coast to sustain their focus on delivering their robust plan to restore services to the levels that passengers rightly expect.”

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