Posted: Tue 19th Sep 2023

Avanti West Coast gets new long term contract to run trains between North Wales and London

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 19th, 2023

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded Avanti West Coast a new long-term rail contract to run trains between North Wales, Chester, and London.

The contract award follows significant improvements by the train operator in reliability, punctuality, and customer satisfaction.

Services from North Wales and Chester to London via Avanti West Coast have decreased since the pandemic.

Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders recently said “Services from Chester to Euston are at about half the level Avanti inherited yet they are allowed to continue with this sub-standard service”

But, after being placed on two successive short-term 6-month contracts and being asked to formulate a recovery plan addressing performance issues on vital routes, including those between Manchester, Birmingham, and London, Avanti has demonstrated progress, the UK Government stated.

The recovery plan centred on training new drivers, reducing reliance on rest days, and making tickets available to passengers sooner.

Following a recovery plan, Avanti West Coast increased its services from 180 to 264 trains daily, marking a 2-year peak.

By the end of a 6-month contract in March, service frequency rose by 40% and cancellations dropped to 4.2%.

Since March 2023, cancellations remained below 3%, reaching a low of 1.1% in July.

Now, over 90% of trains are punctual, with 100+ drivers trained since April 2022.

The UK Government said: “A long-term contract will allow the operator to plan ahead, giving them the certainty they need to prepare advance timetables, roll out new train fleets and continue their work to improve services – benefitting passengers in both the short and long term.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The routes Avanti West Coast operate are pivotal. Over the past year, short-term contracts were essential to revamp the timetable and curtail cancellations. Now with Avanti back in form, providing long-term assurance for both the operator and passengers will maintain this forward momentum.”

Starting 15 October 2023, Avanti’s National Rail Contract will span a core term of three years, with the potential to stretch up to nine. The DfT will keep a watchful eye on Avanti’s continued progress, ensuring sustained recovery.

Avanti has faced widespread criticism, particularly concerning cuts to London-North Wales services due to staffing issues, their recent transformation offers hope.

In July, Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami voiced concerns about Avanti’s summer cuts and the impact on businesses, commuters, and tourism in North Wales.

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