Avanti West Coast Penrith 1

West Coast Partnership contract extension announced

Agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) to extend arrangements for the West Coast Partnership (WCP) rail contract.

  • New rail contract will now run until 15 October 2023
  • Andy Mellors appointed as new Managing Director of Avanti West Coast
  • Discussions ongoing with DfT over long term National Rail Contract for WCP

FirstGroup plc today announces that it has agreed with the Department for Transport (DfT) to extend the current arrangements for the West Coast Partnership (WCP) rail contract.

The current arrangements for WCP were previously set to expire on 31 March 2023 and will now run until 15 October 2023 under broadly the same terms and conditions. The WCP rail contract comprises operation of Avanti West Coast and West Coast Partnership Development, which acts as the shadow operator to the HS2 programme. Discussions are ongoing with DfT regarding the longer-term National Rail Contract for WCP.

FirstGroup also announces that Andy Mellors has been appointed Managing Director of Avanti West Coast with immediate effect. Andy has previously held senior roles at Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and most recently as Managing Director of FirstGroup’s non-franchised rail businesses, and takes over from Steve Montgomery, First Rail Managing Director who has been acting Avanti Managing Director since September 2022.

Commenting, Graham Sutherland, FirstGroup Chief Executive Officer said:  "We are working closely with government and our partners across the industry to deliver a successful railway for our customers and communities.

“Performance at Avanti is steadily improving and since the introduction of the new timetable in mid-December, the number of services operated has increased by more than 40% compared to last summer, with more seats and better frequencies. Today’s agreement allows our team to continue their focus on delivering their robust plans to continue enhancing services for our customers, including further progress on our train upgrade and refurbishment programme.”


Contact Information

Press Desk

Avanti West Coast


Notes to editors

Andy Mellors biography

Andy joined British Rail as an engineering management trainee in 1988 and joined FirstGroup in 2002, becoming Engineering Director for First North Western before moving to similar roles at First ScotRail and then First Great Western (now Great Western Railway) in 2007 where he was also Deputy Managing Director.

In 2017 he became Managing Director for the new South Western Railway franchise, before moving into the role of Managing Director, Non-Franchised Businesses for First Rail in 2020.  In his most recent role Andy has overseen the mobilisation of Lumo, the new award-winning open-access operation between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh; and the successful post-pandemic recovery of Hull Trains as well as the expansion of First Customer Contact who provide customer relations services for all of First Rail’s train operating companies.

About West Coast Partnership   

The West Coast Partnership is a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia to run existing intercity services on the West Coast Main Line and deliver future high-speed services.

We were set up in December 2019 and our partnership is split at 70% FirstGroup and 30% Trenitalia. Both companies boast many years of running successful railways between them– with each possessing the individual know-how of running every type of passenger rail service.

We will use the experiences of FirstGroup in UK rail and Trenitalia's in Italian high-speed rail to be a trusted and flexible partner for the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd. Our partnership is comprised of two businesses: Avanti West Coast – who run the existing high-speed services on the West Coast Mainline, and West Coast Partnership Development – who are the shadow operator for future high-speed train services.


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