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Leaders demand Avanti West Coast's contract is torn up

Northern leaders yesterday voted to have Avanti West Coast’s contract terminated and taken back into public control.

Transport for the North (TfN) Board, held in Leeds, officially passed a motion to write to the Secretary of State asking for the firm to be taken off the key West Coast Main Line route “at the earliest possible opportunity".

It comes after a report to the board that stated, “a continuation of the current situation is unacceptable to the North", and after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham took a swipe at Avanti West Coast for what he has described as "unacceptable" service.

He also called for the rail operator to scrap first class carriages on their trains until services improve.

Avanti, which runs trains that travel between Manchester and London, was awarded a nine-year contract by the government last year.

Two options were considered by the Board – to set a target for improvement by June or face ‘further measures’, or to terminate the contract straight away. 

After hearing from Avanti’s managing director Steve Montgomery about the poor performance over many months, the board opted to take immediate action. 

Transport for the North will now write 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. 

In December, TfN wrote to the Transport Secretary asking him to instruct officials to conduct a critical review into Avanti West Coast’s operation given the deteriorating service, after the operator announced a number of cuts to services over the busy Christmas period. 

Responding to today’s decision, Lord McLoughlin Transport for the North Chair, said: “Today’s board was very clear. The performance on the West Coast Main Line by Avanti has been so poor, for so long that action now must be taken.   

“We will be writing statuary advice today to the Secretary of State calling for Avanti to be relieved of its contract. The travelling public deserve a service they can rely on. 

“But Avanti has fallen far too short of expectations for far too long now.” 

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