Avanti west coast and south east ‘worst for cancellations’ as train reliability hits record low

Train reliability across the UK has hit its worst level ever, with Avanti West Coast canceling the equivalent of around a fifth of services (Luciana Guerra/PA) (PA Wire)

Train reliability across the UK has hit its worst level ever, with Avanti West Coast canceling the equivalent of around a fifth of services (Luciana Guerra/PA) (PA Wire)

Reliability of trains across the UK has hit an all-time low in recent weeks, with Avanti West Coast canceling the equivalent of around a fifth of services.

An analysis of Office of Rail and Road (ORR) data by the PA News Agency found the cancellation rate for all operators in the four weeks to January 7 was 8.0%.

This is double the previous four weeks and represents the lowest credibility in the April 2014 records.

Avanti West Coast’s most recent cancellation rate was 18.9%, one of the highest ever for operators.

The Department for Transport (DfT) responded to the figures by saying it was working with rail companies to ensure “rapid recruitment and training of new drivers”, but Labor said services were “in crisis”.

Cancellation scores reflect the percentage of services that were fully or partially cancelled, with a partial cancellation counting as half of a full cancellation.

The impact on passengers is even greater as the statistics do not include connections removed from the timetables until 10 pm the night before.

    (photos of the press association)

(photos of the press association)

This controversial process known as p-coding – which ORR ordered operators to stop using services last week due to not having enough staff or trains at the right locations – comes before the strike days.

However, a rail industry source noted that the latest reliability figures cover a period when operators were severely affected by the overtime ban introduced as part of the industrial action, and said there are difficulties resuming services the day after the strikes.

Avanti West Coast operates trains on the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Glasgow Central with detachments to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The operator, a joint venture of FirstGroup (70%) and Italian state operator Trenitalia (30%), was given until April 1 by the DfT to improve its services when it received a short-term contract extension in October 2022.

It cut its timetable last August to cut short notice cancellations after a sharp drop in the number of drivers voluntarily working on rest days for extra pay, amid labor relations disputes on UK railways.

When the new timetable was introduced on December 11, there was a huge increase in the number of scheduled services, but this was followed by poor reliability.

Southeastern, whose services were taken over by the DfT in October 2021, had the second-worst cancellation record in the four weeks to January 7 with 12.2%, its highest ever.

It was followed by Govia Thameslink Railway which consists of Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express and TransPennine Express with 11.9%.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with train operators to keep disruption to a minimum and put in place long-term solutions, including the rapid recruitment and training of new drivers.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, said: “Thirteen years of Conservative failures have left the country with secondary rail infrastructure and services in crisis.

“Ministers continue to hand out millions of taxpayer-funded performance bonuses to failing operators.

“The Conservative response to railroad chaos is more of the same failed status quo.

“The next Labor government will end this charade, bring passengers back to the heart of our rail network and invest in infrastructure for the coming century.”

A spokesperson for Avanti West Coast said: “We know our customers are not getting the service they deserve and we apologize for that. Our new timetable, introduced in December, has significantly increased the number of services we operate and customers are already seeing the benefits of this with more seats and more frequent services.

“Performance has steadily improved since the four-week period reported by ORR today, and we are providing significantly more services than in the fall.”

The Standard reached out to Southeastern for comment.

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