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Calls for critical review of Avanti and first class travel ban amid failing services

Posted on - 20th December, 2023 - 8:33am | Author - | Posted in - Preston buildings & attractions, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Transport
Setting sun over Preston Railway Station pic: Tony Worrall
Setting sun over Preston Railway Station pic: Tony Worrall

There are new calls for a critical review and to scrap first class seats on one of one of the country’s busiest rail routes.

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Avanti has been operating the West Coast Main Line since taking over from Virgin in 2019. It is the line that takes passengers from Scotland, through Preston, and down to London. Now, political and transport leaders at Transport for the North, have written to the Transport Secretary calling on the UK government to urgently review Avanti West Coast’s operations amid a renewed surge in rail cancellations and delays.

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The calls come as it was revealed that less than half of trains on the line are running on time (46.3%) and almost a third either cancelled or severely delayed (32%). The cancellations also make it more likely that subsequent trains may be overcrowded – which has led to the calls to declassify first class until ‘an acceptable service’ is in place’.

Read more: Preston’s famous red telephone boxes, targeted by vandals, set for renovation

Avanti said in a statement that train managers already have that option at their disposal where appropriate.

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Andy Burnham, Chair of the Rail North Committee, said: “This torrent of cancellations and delays on Avanti services is simply unacceptable. This is one of the most important times of the year for many families and businesses, all of whom are being let down by this deteriorating rail service without an end in sight.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. That is why we have written to the government to ask for them to conduct a critical review of Avanti as a matter of priority. Given the critical importance of this service at this time of year, it is also vital that all seats on Avanti West Coast services are made available for use by declassifying all First-Class accommodation until an acceptable service can be restored.”

The rail operator stated that declassifying trains is not the solution to the problem, which is caused by a shortage of crew.

A spokesperson for Avanti said: “Declassifying our trains will not solve the current challenges we are seeing on our network.

“Our train managers already have the discretion to declassify our services if they are busy due to disruption and have done so several times recently.

“As well as disruption, we have been seeing some short-notice cancellations on our network and would like to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused as we know this is not good enough.

“These service changes are a result of resourcing challenges where we have seen a shortage of train crew due to historic leave agreements. We are working hard to make sure we can minimise these cancellations.”

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