Under-fire Avanti West Coast to boost services after slashing timetables in August
Train operator Avanti West Coast is to increase its services after slashing timetables more than five weeks ago.
The company said it will run extra trains on its key London-Manchester and London-Birmingham routes from Tuesday September 27 and restore direct trains to the north of Wales before the end of the year.
The operator said services will be boosted in December once new drivers complete training.
Avanti West Coast reduced its timetable from seven trains per hour to just four per hour from August 14.
This was aimed at cutting short-notice cancellations after a sharp decline in the number of drivers voluntarily working on rest days for extra pay.
The company had pledged to run six direct services each way to Wales from September 12 but in recent weeks has operated just one southbound train per day.
The company is one of many train operators engaged in an industrial dispute with its workers.
Avanti West Coast will initially run an additional 10 daily trains between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and an extra six on Wednesdays.
An extra four daily services will operate between London Euston and Birmingham New Street on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Timetables on the remaining days will be boosted “as soon as possible”, the company said.
The further increase to services in December will see a return of three trains an hour between London and Manchester, an extra hourly train between London and Birmingham, and the restoration of direct trains to the north of Wales.
Office of Rail and Road figures analysed by the PA news agency show Avanti West Coast was the worst-performing operator for reliability between July 24 to August 20.
It had its highest ever cancellations score for a four-week period of 14.9%.
Earlier this month the UK Government said it was is considering withdrawing Avanti’s contract to run train services on the West Coast Mainline because of the poor levels of service.
Transport minister Trudy Harrison insisted restoring the service between London and Manchester to full strength was an “absolute priority” for the government.
Ms Harrison told MPs: “Avanti has reduced their timetable in response to the withdrawal of the rest day working. Reducing the timetable provided better certainty and reliability for passengers as it reduced the number of short-notice cancellations.
“The department continues to work closely with Avanti to monitor performance whilst they continue to review the demand data and the position regarding train crew availability to inform options to reliably increase services.
“An increase in services between Manchester and London remains an absolute priority and Avanti will continue to look for opportunities to support passengers and businesses along this route.”
Ms Harrison said the West Coast partnership franchise agreement is due to expire on October 16, adding a “decision has yet to be taken” by the Transport Secretary.
She added: “Given the market and the commercially sensitive nature of the outcome, further information cannot be provided at this time.”
But the minister later went further, telling the Commons: “We are considering all options, all options remain on the table. Withdrawing Avanti’s contract is one of those options, but we are bearing in mind all of the implications of that.”
Clwyd West MP David Jones said that the North Wales mainline has been reduced “to the status of a branch line” due to the cuts, adding it was “an unacceptable state of affairs for the travelling public of North Wales”.
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