Avanti West Coast - Avanti West Coast Changes and Controversies - C

Avanti West Coast - C

Avanti West Coast Changes and Controversies

  • Services were curtailed during 2020 in response to the significant decline of passenger travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help tackle the threat, new hygiene practices were introduced onboard Avanti services. Occasionally, services had to be cancelled at short notice due to a lack of staff.
  • During 2022, Avanti West Coast begun ramping up service levels again, and issued public promises to restore full service to areas such as North Wales and Chester. As part of dealing with COVID-19, the DfT produced an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) and then in September 2020, an Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement (ERMA), which extended Avanti West Coast's contract until 1 April 2031.
  • The 2020 ERMA was overridden in October 2022 with a six-month short-term contract to give the company time to improve its performance. In March 2023, this contract was extended by a further six months to expire on 15 October 2023.
  • Avanti West Coast is amongst those operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, the first national rail strike in the UK for three decades. Its workers are amongst those who have voted to take industrial action due a dispute over pay and working conditions. In response, the company appealed for the general public to avoid the railways for non-essential travel on the affected dates, these being 21, 23, and 25 June, as only a minimal service could be run due to the number of staff choosing not to work. On 29 June 2022, Avanti West Coast's staff voted in favour of further strikes.
  • Between 14 August and 18 September 2022, Avanti West Coast reduced its timetable, citing unofficial strike action from its employees. However, this allegation was disputed by Aslef, which accused the company of lying and blamed their lack of recruitment, especially of train drivers, for the problems. Trains were running at one service per hour on the majority of routes, as opposed to the three which would typically occur on the London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly route.
  • Following these changes, Avanti West Coast was subject to public criticism, news stories emerged of numerous train cancellations, overcrowded services, delays, and expensive fares. Many commuters faced difficulties reaching their destinations on the reduced services and some travellers have been left to wait for to two days before travel for tickets to be released for sale.
  • The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, expressed his frustration at the operator and explained his intention to ask the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to strip Avanti West Coast of their franchise. During September 2022, the CEO of Avanti West Coast resigned amid the timetable controversy.
  • In October 2022, the UK Government extended Avanti's contract for six months but stated "drastic improvements" were necessary. According to figures released by the Office of Rail and Road on 12 November 2022, Avanti West Coast had the worst record of train cancellations in the year prior to this date. The average rate in Great Britain was 3.8%, while Avanti West Coast had a cancellation rate of 8%.

Avanti West Coast Overview

Avanti West Coast Franchise(s): West Coast Partnership
Avanti West Coast Main Region(s):
Greater London
North West England
South East England
West Midlands

Avanti West Coast Other Region(s):
East Midlands
East of England

Avanti West Coast Fleet Size:
18 Class 221 Super Voyagers
56 Class 390 Pendolinos

Avanti West Coast Stations Called at: 46
Avanti West Coast Stations Operated: 16
Avanti West Coast Parent Company: FirstGroup (70%)
Trenitalia (30%)

Avanti West Coast Reporting Mark: VT
Avanti West Coast Dates of Operation: 8 December 2019–15 October 2023
Avanti West Coast Predecessor: Virgin Trains


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