Boss of train company that cut rail links between North Wales, Chester and London stepping down
The boss of a rail operator that slashed the number of trains operating between North Wales, Chester and London is to step down.
Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Avanti West Coast said today he is stepping down from his role from 15 September “in order to pursue other executive leadership opportunities.”
Last month Avanti West Coast introduced a reduced timetable for its services which includes slashing the number of daily trains running between Chester to London to just one.
Normally the Avanti West Coast runs five services from Chester to London Euston and five from London to Chester.
The train operator was slammed by politicians and business leaders after it introduced a ‘limited’ timetable due to what it called an “unofficial strike”.
At the time Avanti said it was “due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by ASLEF members.”
ASLEF hit back and said there was no unofficial strike and that Avanti “does not employ enough drivers to deliver the services it has promised passengers it will run.”
Business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester in the Growth Track 360 partnership wrote to the Minister of State for Rail at the Department for Transport, Wendy Morton MP.
They called for the UK Government to require Avanti to provide direct each-way services to Chester and North Wales – Wrexham and the North Wales Coast Main Line Stations to Holyhead – from London in the emergency timetable.
Leader of Flintshire Council and Vice Chair of Growth Track 360, Councillor Ian Roberts, said at the time: “Civic leaders in North Wales and neighbouring communities in North West England will not meekly accept the erosion of our rail service to branch line status when we have been pressing for restoration of Avanti service frequencies to at least pre-pandemic levels.”
“The UK Department for Transport must get a grip of the crisis at Avanti West Coast to ensure the railways provide the high-quality tourist links on which our businesses depend.”
Phil Whittingham transferred to Avanti West Coast, as Managing Director, from Virgin West Coast Trains Limited following the rail franchise change process following a successful 23 years in various roles on the railway.
Steve Montgomery, First Rail Managing Director, said: “Having led the team through the challenges presented by the pandemic over the last two years and into the recovery period, Phil leaves with the team ready for the challenges in delivering the future service requirements. I would like to thank Phil and wish him well in the future.”
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