Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Avanti West Coast contract extended for a further 6 months following recent service improvements [March 2023]

The press release issued by the Department for Transport on 20 March 2023.

Avanti West Coast contract extended with further work to restore reliability and punctuality to come.

  • Avanti West Coast’s new contract will run until 15 October 2023
  • follows significant improvements including running 40% more services and cancellations falling to 4.2%
  • further improvements will be needed over the next 6 months

The Department for Transport has today (20 March 2023) extended Avanti West Coast’s contract for a further 6 months after significant improvements have been made since October.

This decision comes almost 6 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 2 years.

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

  • weekday services have risen to the highest level in over 2 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 6 months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.

Although Avanti West Coast has made significant progress in the past 6 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 6-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 7 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.