UK Government urged to safeguard direct trains between North Wales, Chester and London
The UK Government is being urged to safeguard at least one direct train per day in each direction between North Wales, Chester and London in the Avanti West Coast emergency timetable.
Earlier this month the train operator introduced a ‘limited’ timetable due to an “unofficial strike”.
It means direct trains are continuing to run between London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh but at a greatly reduced frequency.
Only one direct service per day each way will run between London and Chester (to Wrexham) with a shuttle service linking Crewe and Holyhead.
Avanti West Coast had claimed its reduced service was due to “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.”
Avanti said the majority of its drivers have also declared themselves unavailable for overtime which has meant Avanti passengers “have faced multiple short-notice cancellations on our network which has had a severe impact on their plans.”
Train drivers union Aslef refutes the claims saying: “Avanti does not employ enough drivers to run the services they have promised to run.”
Business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester in the Growth Track 360 partnership have now written to the Minister of State for Rail at the Department for Transport, Wendy Morton MP.
They have 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.
Growth Track 360 wants Avanti to “honour the pledge” to restore and improve direct services to Chester and North Wales in the December 2022 timetable to “equal or exceed the volume in place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The group has also called for Avanti to resolve the driver shortage issue and staff up to “deliver services that do not rely on overtime and rest day working.”
Leader of Flintshire Council and Vice Chair of Growth Track 360, Councillor Ian Roberts, said: “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.”
Growth Track 360 Chair, Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, said: “We are dismayed and disappointed at the cessation of all direct intercity train services between North Wales, Chester and London until further notice with just one train per day linking Chester and Wrexham with London.”
“This is unprecedented in the long history of our cross-border region’s relationship with the railways and comes during the peak holiday season when local businesses are otherwise best placed to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
Growth Track 360 Business Representative, Ashley Rogers, Chief Executive of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, said: “The cross-border North Wales Mersey Dee region is one of the UK’s most magnetic tourist destinations thanks to our outstanding coastline, countryside and world class attractions.”
“We were on track towards a full return of the London, Chester and North Wales timetable of direct services by the end of the year based on prior commitments from Avanti and the Department for Transport.”
“Now we are back to square one. Confusion over advance bookings and no direct trains at all to access our coastal region from London means a return to the nineteenth century for our passengers.”
“We ask the UK Government to stand up for our regional economy and our businesses and to truly help us to level up by restoring direct London – Chester – North Wales Services and enhancing our main line status.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com