Avanti West Coast announces increase in services
West Coast operator sets out plans for its timetable restoration.
- West Coast Main Line operator to run more services to and from Euston
- Further timetable uplift planned for December
Avanti West Coast is increasing its services as the first stage in a recovery plan to step up the timetable on its network.
The intercity operator will be adding around 70 extra services a week on its busiest route between London and Manchester, compared with the current timetable. Introducing these additional services will provide around 40,000 extra seats a week on the West Coast Main Line. There will also be additional services on the London – Birmingham route.
There will then be a further increase of the timetable in December which will see three trains an hour on the London to Manchester route, an additional service to the West Midlands taking services to / from Birmingham to at least half-hourly, and the return of direct services to North Wales.
These extra trains follow an intensive analysis of the number of additional services that can be provided in a reliable and sustainable fashion. They also take account of the significant number of drivers who will be entering passenger service following recruitment and training – nearly 100 between April and December this year. The services are being targeted at the busiest routes and times and are not dependent on overtime working.
From next week until early December, up to ten extra trains a day, over and above the existing timetable, will run between Manchester and London on both weekdays and weekends. These services will begin to be introduced on Tuesday 27 September, from when Avanti West Coast will run an additional ten trains on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and six additional trains on Wednesdays.
At the same time, on the Birmingham route, Avanti West Coast will introduce four additional trains a day (two in each direction) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Tickets for these services will be available for purchase over the coming days. The remaining additional services will be introduced as soon as possible.
Following this, in mid-December, Avanti West Coast will continue its recovery with a significant step up of the timetable. Further additional services will be added to Manchester, Birmingham and North Wales as well as maintaining regular services to Liverpool and Scotland. Overall, there will be more than 260 services a day on weekdays, compared with around 180 a day before December and 245 in May 2022.
Barry Milsom, Executive Director of Operations and Safety for Avanti West Coast, said: “We know we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this is causing.
“The decision to reduce our timetable in August was not taken lightly but our customers and communities deserve a dependable train service, so we’ve been working hard to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable way.
“Resolving this situation required a robust plan that allows us to gradually increase services without being reliant on traincrew overtime. We are now in a position to start delivering this incremental increase in services, followed by a further increase in December. We’ll continue to review our timetable beyond December with our industry partners.
“We’re working with our people, their union representatives, and industry partners to match the resources we have to demand, so we can deliver reliable services across our network to all our customers and communities.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this period.”
Avanti West Coast
Notes to editors
Services were reduced in early August as result of drivers being unwilling to sign up for the overtime upon which all train operators rely. This was causing numerous short-notice cancellations and so the timetable was reduced to make it more reliable and allow customers to travel with greater certainty. As a result, short-notice cancellations dropped from around 16% to 3%.
Whilst the timetable was reduced, we included additional services where they were most needed and where resource allowed. For example, on weekdays between 6am and 8am we run seven trains from Manchester to London which is almost the same as pre-covid, and from 7am to 9am we have six trains from Birmingham to London which is the same as pre-covid.
We do have enough drivers to run our services. However, it takes 18 months to train a driver and training (which requires multiple people in a driving cab) had to be stopped during the pandemic due to social distancing rules. In addition, we have some drivers who were clinically extremely vulnerable and who couldn’t work during the pandemic – they needed refresher training. We now have significant numbers of additional drivers coming into service following recruitment and training, and this will continue over the coming months; nearly 100 drivers will have entered formal service this year between April and December. And we have more drivers on the books than the previous franchise – nearly 600 in total. This is a key part of our plan to build a robust timetable which isn’t reliant on overtime.