Northern Mayors lose patience with Avanti

Northern mayors, including Liverpool city region’s Steve Rotheram, vote unanimously in favour of calling for West Coast rail operator Avanti to be stripped of its contract. Tony McDonough reports

Avanti West Coast
An Avanti West Coast train at Lime Street Station in Liverpool. Picture by Tony McDonough


Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram and other Northern leaders are calling on the Government to strip rail operator Avanti West Coast of its contract.

At a Transport for the North (TfN) board meeting in Leeds on Wednesday, which was attended by Steve Montgomery, managing director at First Rail which owns Avanti, Mayors made it clear they had lost patience with endless delays and cancellations.

In September 2023, Avanti West Coast, a joint venture between First Group and TrenItalia, secured a new nine-year contract from the Government to run West Coast mainline services, linking Liverpool, Manchester and other locations with London.

This was despite a poor track record of performance. In the run up to the renewal the Government said Avanti had made significant improvements to its services. However, since October 2023 the level of service has once again deteriorated.

Addressing Mr Montgomery at the TfN meeting, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Your company has inflicted huge damage on our economy for coming up to two years now since the timetable collapsed in 2022.

“All the things you said then you’re saying again today. That explains why trust is very, very low… “You’re not fixing issues on the most important railway line in the country.”

Consequently, the RfN board voted unanimously in favour of a proposal calling on the Government to strip Avanti of its contract.

The proposal said: “For the Board to submit Statutory Advice to the Secretary of State for Transport that Avanti West Coast’s contract should be terminated at the earliest possible opportunity (with the Operator of Last Resort taking on responsibility in the short term for the delivery of long-distance services on the West Coast Main Line).”


Steve Rotheram, left, and Andy Burnham have lost patience with Avanti


Although the Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper must consider any statutory advice that is issued by TfN, he cannot terminate the nine-year contract until at least three years have passed. In the case of Avanti that would take it to late 2026.

READ MORE:  Avanti apologises for ‘free money’ presentation

READ MORE: £1m contract kick-starts Central Station transformation

Rail union RMT backed TfN’s call saying Avanti’s performance had been “consistently poor” and had been “deteriorating since December”.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “We welcome Transport for the North’s decision. This would be the right move for the North, for the country as a whole and for the workforce at Avanti. The Government must now act.”

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.