Avanti West Coast: A timeline of the chaos on the West Coast Mainline

Many are dissatisfied at the service Avanti provides and wanted to see it stripped of its franchise. Credit: PA Images

Avanti West Coast has been awarded a new long-term contract by the government after making 'significant improvements for passengers'.

But many remain dissatisfied at the service the company provides and wanted to see it stripped of its franchise.

The Department for Transport said the operator 'dramatically reduced cancellations' to as low as 1.1% over the past year. 

When did issues with Avanti first begin and why?

Avanti West Coast reduced its timetable in August 2022 - citing unofficial strike action from its employees. 

In that month, cancellations were as high as 25%.

As few as four trains per hour - from London Euston, one to each of Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham - were running in an attempt to stop short-notice cancellations that have plagued the service in recent months.

At one point, only one train to London was running per hour between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston.

A timeline of the issues affecting Avanti West Coast since the end of 2022. Credit: ITV Granada

In one three-month period up to October 2022, 1,400 were cancelled as Avanti effectively abandoned their timetable.

One frequent commuter to the capital told Granada Reports that getting to London was "like pot luck".

Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham warned Avanti that they were in a "last chance saloon" - calling for their franchise to be stripped.Avanti's CEO quit in September amid stinging criticism of their performance from unions, politicians and passengers as the company tried to deal with industrial action and a driver shortage.

Phil Whittingham said he was leaving the role from on 15 September to "pursue other executive leadership opportunities".

Why were they given short term contracts?

In October 2022, the UK government extended Avanti's contract for six months but stated "drastic improvements" were necessary to keep the franchise.

The MP Jake Berry likened the service from London to Manchester to a bushtucker trial.

In March 2023, this was extended until October. The decision was condemned by Labour and trade unions as "rewarding failure".

Avanti West Coast has now been awarded a new long term contract after 'significant improvements'. Credit: PA Images

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union condemned the company in "overwhelming numbers", making it clear they did not have confidence in the management, the union said.

The Department for Transport said since a 'recovery timetable' was introduced on 11 December, we improvements across services, including 90% of trains arriving within 15 minutes of the booked time and a reduction in cancellations.

In April to June 2023, the rail regulator found Avanti was officially the least punctual operator, with fewer than half its services running on time.

Has Avanti improved in recent months?

The Government says it has now dramatically cut its number of cancellations to just over 1% in July.

The company says it has 100 additional drivers and increased the number of weekday services from 180 to 264.

  • Commuters react to Avanti's contract extension outside Liverpool Lime Street

Avanti West Coast Managing Director Andy Mellors said: “Over the last six months, we have delivered significant and sustained improvements in operational performance and customer satisfaction.

"Cancellations that Avanti West Coast is responsible for have stabilised at below two percent of scheduled services.

"The last year has been challenging but I would like to thank our customers as well as stakeholders for their patience.

“There are still challenges ahead but plenty to look forward to on our network including customer benefits such as the continued award-winning refurbishment of our Pendolinos and the introduction of our new Hitachi fleet, which will increase capacity and further improve our sustainability credentials.”

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