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Avanti restores some services, but pressure continues

Avanti West Coast is restoring some of the trains which were withdrawn last month, but one group of business leaders and politicians is calling for its government contract to be withdrawn.

Avanti said there would be further improvements in December. For now, AWC is adding back 70 services a week on the routes between London, the West Midlands and Manchester, with a further uplift in mid-December, when there will be more trains between London and Manchester, Birmingham and north Wales as well as regular services to Liverpool and Scotland.

AWC executive director of operations and safety Barry Milsom said: ‘We know we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this is causing.

‘The decision to reduce our timetable in August was not taken lightly but our customers and communities deserve a dependable train service, so we’ve been working hard to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable way.

‘Resolving this situation required a robust plan that allows us to gradually increase services without being reliant on traincrew overtime. We are now in a position to start delivering this incremental increase in services, followed by a further increase in December. We’ll continue to review our timetable beyond December with our industry partners.

’We’re working with our people, their union representatives, and industry partners to match the resources we have to demand, so we can deliver reliable services across our network to all our customers and communities.’

However AWC is still under fire in north Wales, the Wirral and Chester, where the Growth Track 360 group of businesses and councils says the Avanti contract should end, pointing out that there is currently only one direct service a day between London, Chester and Wrexham, while a shuttle service is linking Crewe, Chester and Holyhead.

Growth Track 360 chair Cllr Louise Gittins,who is leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, said: ‘We were dismayed and disappointed at the cessation of all direct intercity train services between North Wales, Chester and London with just one train per day linking Chester and Wrexham with London. These cuts have caused incalculable damage to our cross-border regional economy during the peak holiday season.’

Her colleague at Growth Track, vice chair and Flintshire Council leader Cllr Ian Roberts, added: ‘Civic leaders in North Wales and neighbouring communities in North West England have worked hard to build a collaborative relationship with Avanti but their management’s actions show they regard our Chester and North Wales main line as an unimportant branch.

‘It is shocking to realise that the same company has been tasked with introducing services on HS2. The UK Department for Transport must get a grip of the crisis at Avanti West Coast by placing its routes under the control of the public sector Operator of Last Resort which has handled well similar failures by operators in other parts of Britain.’

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