Following significant improvements across reliability, punctuality and customer satisfaction, Avanti West Cost has reportedly reduced cancellations to as low as 1.1% over the past year.
A long-term contract should give the operator the certainty it needs to prepare advanced timetables, roll out new train fleets and continue its work to improve services.
Previously, the DfT placed Avanti West Coast on two consecutive six-month contracts and directed the company to develop a recovery plan.
Aimed at addressing poor performance on vital routes, including those between Manchester, Birmingham and London, the plan prioritised training new drivers, reducing reliance on rest day working and getting tickets on sale earlier.
More than 100 additional drivers have been trained and brought on since April 2022.
By the end of the first six-month contract in March, Avanti had already made progress toward a recovery, with 40% more services being run and cancellations within Avanti’s control falling to 4.2%.
A recovery timetable was also introduced, which has seen services increase from 180 trains per day to 264 on weekdays.
UK transport secretary Mark Harper said: “The routes Avanti West Coast operate provide vital connections, and passengers must feel confident that they can rely on the services to get them where they need to be at the right time.
“Over the past year, short-term contracts were necessary to rebuild the timetable and reduce cancellations. Now Avanti is back on track, providing long-term certainty for both the operator and passengers will best ensure that improvements continue.”
Further improvements to Avanti services include more than 90% of trains now arriving within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, and the introduction of Travel Companion, a WhatsApp channel that passengers with accessibility needs can use to get real-time assistance and information on their journeys.
Starting 15 October 2023, Avanti West Coast’s new National Rail contract will have a core term of three years and a maximum possible term of nine years.
After three years, the transport secretary has the ability to terminate the contract at any point with three months’ notice.
What’s more, a new contract was separately awarded to Cross Country that will bring improved services and refreshed train fleets for passengers, also from 15 October.
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