The DfT has placed train operator Avanti West Coast on a short-term contract and told it to deliver the urgent increase in services required.
Avanti said it has seen major operational issues due to industrial action, staff shortages, increased sickness levels and the majority of drivers making themselves unavailable for overtime.
The company said it has started to add more services as new drivers and those who need re-training become available to work. Avanti said it has added extra trains on its key London-Manchester and London-Birmingham routes, bringing service levels closer to normal running.
With Avanti’s previous contract coming to an end, the short-term extension will see it continue to run services on the route until 1 April 2023. The Government said it will then consider Avanti’s performance while finalising a National Rail Contract that will have a renewed focus on resilience of train services and continuity for passengers.
Alongside rolling ahead with training new drivers, Avanti’s service improvement plans include:
• The successful delivery of its timetable recovery plan and a significant, sustained and reliable increase from about 180 trains per day to 264 trains per day on weekdays as new and retrained drivers become available
• Continuing to deliver on its traincrew recruitment and plans to reduce reliance on rest day working to operate services
• Extending booking options for passengers, making the full range of tickets available as early as possible
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “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.
“We have agreed a six-month extension to Avanti to assess whether it is capable of running this crucial route to a standard passengers deserve and expect.
“The problems facing Avanti over recent weeks stem from old working practices that mean shifts are often covered by existing drivers volunteering to work above their 35 contracted hours. This antiquated practice shows just how urgent it is for us to modernise our railways, so passengers benefit from reliable services that don’t rely on the goodwill of drivers volunteering to work overtime.”
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