Rail company contract renewed despite ‘catastrophic’ delays and cancellations

Avanti West Coast has had its contract to operate its UK rail routes renewed despite problems with delays and cancellations.

Both Avanti and another operator, CrossCountry, were awarded contracts lasting up to nine and eight years respectively.

Avanti West Coast will continue to operate routes from Scotland, Wales, Manchester and Liverpool to London, while CrossCountry will remain the operator of routes running from the north of Scotland down to Cambridge, Bournemouth, Cardiff and Cornwall.

The Avanti renewal came despite problems with trains arriving late or not arriving at all.

Asked by fellow MPs in the House of Commons after the new contracts were announced, Transport Minister Jesse Norman said Avanti accepted the need to “woo” customers back after “catastrophic underperformance” in 2022.

MPs suggested other lines were becoming overcrowded due to passengers going out of their way to avoid the Avanti when other options were available.

Sir. Norman said the government believed Avanti was beginning to regain confidence.

However, Labour’s Mike Amesbury suggested the contract had been renewed on the basis that the operator is “a bit less crap than it used to be”.

David Jones, the former Tory minister, also said the decision will be “very badly received” by passengers in North Wales.

But the government said improvements had been made to the firm.

Improved performance

Since January this year, the cancellation rate for Avanti West Coast services fell from 13% to 3% in March and 1.1% in July, the government said.

The rate has not risen above 3% since March, the Ministry of Transport added.

While a quarter of Avanti trains arrived 15 minutes after their scheduled time last December, the department said 90% of trains now arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.

At the height of its poor performance, Avanti West Coast canceled in the four weeks to January 7, the equivalent of approx. one in five services and recorded a cancellation score of 18.9% – one of the highest recorded for any operator in records dating back to 2014.

More than 100 additional drivers are said to have been trained and employed since April 2022.

Read more
Peak ScotRail fares to be scrapped in pilot scheme
Major disruption affects Kylie concert

Earlier this year the train operator was TransPennine Express brought under government control due to “months of ongoing cancellations”.

Despite the previous high cancellation and late installment, Avanti had its last contract extended in March this year.

The latest agreement will last for a minimum of three years, while the CrossCountry agreement will last for at least four.

Avanti West Coast is owned by Italian train company Trenitalia and London-listed FirstGroup.

The parent company of CrossCountry is the German company Deutsche Bahn.

Both train operators had been hit by strikes since rail workers’ unions began industrial action in June 2022.

Leave a Comment