• Avanti West Coast’s new contract will run until 15th October 2023
  • Follows significant improvements including running 40% more services and cancellations falling to 4.2%
  • Further improvements will be needed over the next six months

The Department for Transport has today (20th March) extended Avanti West Coast’s contract for a further six months after significant improvements have been made since October.

This decision comes almost six months after the operator was initially put on a short-term contract by the Government and ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed at addressing poor performance on vital West Coast Main Line routes, including between Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Shortly after being placed on this contract, the Transport Secretary travelled to Manchester to meet with stakeholders to further understand what could be done to address the situation and improve services. This led to the decision to introduce a recovery timetable which has significantly reduced reliance on overtime working and has seen services increase from 180 trains per day to 264 on weekdays – the highest level in over two years.

Since the introduction of this timetable on 11th December, Avanti West Coast has seen very significant improvements across services including:

Weekday services have risen to the highest level in over two years.
Reducing cancellations from nearly 25% of the service in August 2022, to 4.2% in early March 2023 – the lowest in over 12 months.
90% of trains now arriving within 15 minutes of the booked time.
Over 100 additional drivers have been recruited, reducing reliance on union-controlled overtime working.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper said:

“The routes Avanti West Coast run are absolutely vital, and I fully understand the frustrations passengers felt at the completely unacceptable services seen last Autumn. Following our intervention, Rail Minister Huw Merriman and I have worked closely with local leaders to put a robust plan in place, which I’m glad to see is working.

“However, there is still more work to be done to bring services up to the standards we expect, which is why over this next six months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.”

Although Avanti West Coast has made significant progress in the past six months, further work needs to be done to restore reliability and punctuality to the standards that passengers rightly expect. This will include delivering more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption.

The six-month contract was initially introduced after major operational issues primarily caused by a shortage of available drivers and a ban on rest day and overtime working. Last July, drivers for Avanti West Coast, who overwhelmingly belong to the ASLEF union, simultaneously and with no warning stopped volunteering to work overtime.

To help address this, the Government continues to support the industry – including through setting a mandate – as they negotiate with unions to ensure we can take forward much-needed reform, including introducing a reliable seven day a week service to secure the future of our railways.

The Transpennine Express contract expires on 28 May and will be considered separately with a further announcement in due course.