Avanti has admitted it expects to be running a reduced timetable on the West Coast mainline until at least December.

The train operator has faced fierce criticism since it drastically cut services at the start of August without warning, blaming drivers for taking “unofficial” strike action by refusing to sign up to overtime.

Union Aslef has rejected the accusation and says Avanti simply does not have enough staff.

The row has left passengers with few trains on the key route connecting London with most of the country’s major cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Services from Manchester to the capital were slashed by a third from one every 20 minutes to one every hour.

Travellers have also been unable to book tickets in advance with Avanti, lost seat reservations for journeys they had booked already, and found the services that are in operation crowded, cancelled or delayed.

After weeks of complaints from passengers and politicians the company has today published a plan to resume services.

The first stage will involve adding around 70 services a week on its busiest route between London and Manchester starting next week.

This will provide an extra 40,000 seats in total the company said.

There will also be additional services on the London – Birmingham route.

In a press release, Avanti said: “There will then be a further increase of the timetable in December which will see three trains an hour on the London to Manchester route, an additional service to the West Midlands taking services to/from Birmingham to at least half-hourly, and the return of direct services to North Wales.”

Avanti says these additional services will be “reliable and sustainable” as a result of new drivers being recruited and trained – around 100 between April and December this year.

File photo dated 20/07/22 of passengers at Euston station in London following train cancellations, as London mayor Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham have criticised Avanti West Coast for drastically reducing its timetables, branding the decision "completely unacceptable". PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday August 10, 2022. In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the regional leaders said the train operator's recent timetable cuts were a "national outrage". See PA story INDUSTRY Rail. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Avanti West Coast has faced criticism in recent weeks for drastically reducing its timetables (Photo: Yui Mok/PA)

“The services are being targeted at the busiest routes and times and are not dependent on overtime working,” Avanti added.

The extra trains will start on Tuesday, 27 September and Avanti says tickets will be available for purchase “over the coming days”.

Avanti says it will be mid-December before there can be a “significant step up of the timetable”.

The aim is to have more than 260 services a day on weekdays, compared with around 180 a day before December and 245 in May 2022.

Barry Milsom, Executive Director of Operations and Safety for Avanti West Coast, said: “We know we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this is causing.

“The decision to reduce our timetable in August was not taken lightly but our customers and communities deserve a dependable train service, so we’ve been working hard to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable way.

“Resolving this situation required a robust plan that allows us to gradually increase services without being reliant on traincrew overtime. We are now in a position to start delivering this incremental increase in services, followed by a further increase in December. We’ll continue to review our timetable beyond December with our industry partners.

“We’re working with our people, their union representatives, and industry partners to match the resources we have to demand, so we can deliver reliable services across our network to all our customers and communities.

“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this period.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: