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Minister summons Avanti West Coast bosses to meeting over ‘woeful’ rail service

11 Jul 2024 2 minute read
An Avanti West Coast train. Photo Luciana Guerra PA Images

Labour’s new Transport Secretary is to call in train bosses who run services on the West Coast Main Line to discuss their performance.

Louise Haigh accused Avanti West Coast during the General Election campaign of providing a “woeful service” and said Labour would consider stripping the firm of its contract for the service, running from London up to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cumbria and Glasgow.

Earlier this week, several newly elected Labour MPs criticised cancellations and disruptions on the line during their journeys to take up their seats in the House of Commons.

Ms Haigh was asked if Avanti was on “borrowed time”.

The minister replied: “My views about Avanti are very well known, having served in the shadow brief for two-and-a-half years.

“And I will be calling them in with their Network Rail business unit very soon to address their performance and I’ve been working with my officials immediately to make sure we drive up performance standards.”

Asked when they will meet, Ms Haigh replied “imminently”.

Reliability 

Office of Rail and Road figures show Avanti West Coast had the third worst reliability of all operators in Britain in the year to the end of March, with the equivalent of one in 15 trains (6.9%) cancelled.

Ms Haigh said improving rail connectivity in the North was her number one priority and Labour has promised to bring all train services in England into public ownership.

It will do so as contracts expire – which is believed to require new legislation – or by ending agreements early in cases of poor performance.

The party has also said it would go ahead with the creation of Great British Railways, a new public sector body to oversee the network – first proposed by the Conservative government in May 2021.

Ms Haigh spoke after touring Oldham Bus Depot with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.

While there, the minister took to the wheel of a 14-tonne ADL 400 EV double decker bus, driving the vehicle for around 100 yards inside the depot.

Ms Haigh added: “This is the new hands-on approach that this Government takes to tackling the challenges we face.”

She added: “It was terrifying driving that!”


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