In the House of Commons today, Michael Fabricant raised the issue of Avanti Trains and their unreliability. Their franchise is up for renewal in October.
Joining other MPs from both sides of the House, Michael asked: “Even though Avanti have a reduced timetable, they haven’t provided reliability. They are still cancelling trains and they still won’t take advanced bookings. Whether it’s ASLEF, and their strike actions which are not helpful, or whether it’s the effect of Covid, and many drivers not coming back to work, my Hon Friend is quite right to acknowledge that it’s the Avanti system of running their business, which is the main aggravator.
So firstly, may I say that we must extend thanks from my constituents in Lichfield who at least are able to use London Northwestern Railway who are providing now – after a shaky start – a very reliable service every hour down to London.
What steps can the Government take, perhaps in October, to ensure that the position with Avanti doesn’t remain as it is?
Minister of State for Transport, Trudy Harrison, replied : “I agree with my Hon Friend that there are many train operators providing a much better service than Avanti, and I am grateful that that is the case. We will learn from them, we will continue to speak and challenge and probe Avanti about how exactly they will come to an agreement with their workers to ensure that we have sufficient train drivers to drive the trains as soon as possible. We recognise the importance of having safe, affordable and reliable train service.”
Commenting afterwards, Michael says: “A reliable and frequent rail service between Lichfield Trent Valley and London Euston or Manchester Piccadilly is essential for the economic growth of the area. Avanti’s model of working expecting drivers to work on their days off and not training sufficient new drivers has been very disappointing.
“The Government must encourage more people to train to become drivers – both men and women – and seriously consider whether Avanti’s franchise should be extended. I recognise that Avanti had barely won the West Coast Main Line contract when the Covid pandemic struck, but they really do now need to pull their finger out and provide a fast and reliable service from Lichfield, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and other rail stations along the Line.”