North Wales MP ‘gobsmacked’ at extension of Avanti West Coast contract
A train operator that has caused anger and frustration amongst commuters by slashing services between North Wales, Chester and London has been given a six-month extension contract by the UK government following “significant improvements.”
The move comes six months after the operator was initially put on a short-term contract by the government and ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed at addressing poor performance on West Coast Main Line routes.
The routes operated by Avanti West Coast are “absolutely vital,” said Transport Secretary Mark Harper.
However, the decision to support Avanti West Coast has been slammed by a Conservative MP and union.
Virginia Crosbie, the MP for Ynys Môn, said she was “gobsmacked”, the UK government had given the extension.
She said: “Many passengers and businesses who are at their wits’ end over this terrible, unreliable service.
“The performance of Avanti has improved only very slightly but it is still miles away from what it should be.
“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the rail minister to better understand this decision.
“In that meeting I will be explaining how my own community of Ynys Môn has been particularly badly hit by how bad Avanti is with a lack of direct trains between Holyhead and London, cancelled services and poor communication.”
She added: “We simply do not have a seven-day-a-week rail service and it’s not good enough. Time and again Avanti has promised improvements but it has more often than not come to nothing.
“I have no faith Avanti can turn this service around – something I said in a parliamentary debate four months ago – and I will again tell the minister my view has not changed.”
ASLEF’s General Secretary, Mick Whelan, criticised the government’s decision, calling it “extraordinary” and “discouraging”.
Whelan accused Avanti West Coast of continually cancelling services and failing to deliver on its promises to passengers, businesses, and taxpayers.
Whelan further claimed the company was putting its profits ahead of customer satisfaction by increasing fares while providing subpar services.
Transport Secretary Harper acknowledged that while Avanti West Coast had made progress in the past six months, further work needed to be done to restore reliability and punctuality to the expected standards.
The decision to grant Avanti West Coast an extension will come as a surprise to many, particularly given the criticism levied at the operator for its poor performance.
However, the UK Government’s decision suggests that they have faith in the operator’s ability to improve the services it provides to commuters.
The rail operator will now have six months to make additional improvements, and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to meet the government’s expectations.
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