The UK Department for Transport said it has placed Avanti West Coast on a short-term contract and challenged it to deliver the urgent increase in services required.
Over the past few months, Avanti has seen operational issues primarily stemming from a shortage of available drivers. Shifts are often covered by existing drivers volunteering to work above their 35 contracted hours.
Officials said nearly 100 additional drivers will have entered service this year between April and December.
As a result, the company has started to add more services as new drivers and those who need re-training become available to work. They have also added extra trains on its key London-Manchester and London-Birmingham routes, bringing service levels closer to normal running.
With Avanti’s previous contract ending, the short-term extension will see it continue to run services on the route until April 1, 2023. This window is designed to provide Avanti with the opportunity to improve its services.
The government will then consider Avanti’s performance while finalizing a National Rail Contract with a renewed focus on the resilience of train services and continuity for passengers.
“We need train services which are reliable and resilient to modern day life. Services on Avanti have been unacceptable and while the company has taken positive steps to get more trains moving, it must do more to deliver certainty of service to its passengers,” Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said n a statement.
“We have agreed a 6-month extension to Avanti to assess whether it is capable of running this crucial route to a standard passengers deserve and expect,” Trevelyan added.
Avanti West Coast placed on short-term contract to drastically improve services – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)