Avanti West Coast given six months to ‘drastically improve’ train service

The underfire train company runs Liverpool’s main service to London.

Major train company, Avanti West Coast, has been given a six-month contract renewal by the Government, after providing an ‘unacceptable’ service to passengers.

Originally due to end on October 16, Avanti has been given until April 1 to improve its service, according to the Department for Transport.

Passengers arrive at Liverpool Lime Street Station. Image: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Operating the Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston service, the train company has faced mass criticism after reducing timetables in August.

Avanti blamed ‘severe staff shortages’ and a reliance on driver overtime for the disruptions. Recently running just one train an hour from Liverpool to London and Manchester to London, the Government has said Avanti must deliver an ‘urgent increase in services.’

The train company added extra services from Manchester to London at the end of September.

What’s been said

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We need train services which are reliable and resilient to modern day life. 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 six-month extension to Avanti to assess whether it is capable of running this crucial route to a standard passengers deserve and expect.”

Avanti has also been criticised for suspending ticket sales, with many people unable to plan their journeys in advance.

The company announced train strikes on Saturday, October 8, affecting the Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston service.

Many users replied to the tweet asking when tickets would be released for future journeys this month, as they are still unable to purchase them.

Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram, joined Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan in writing to the Transport Secretary back in August, after Avanti suspended ticket sales for almost a month.

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram

He told Grant Shapps that running one service to London per hour from Liverpool was already ‘completely inadequate’ and demanded reassurance that the city would return to half hourly services.

FirstGroup plc, which co-owns Avanti West Coast in partnership with Trenitalia, said it was ‘committed’ to providing services that meet people’s needs.

Graham Sutherland, FirstGroup chief executive officer, said: “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.”

Avanti have said they expect staff increases and an increase in services from December.