FirstGroup Responds to TfN’s Call to End Avanti West Coast Contract

A FirstGroup spokesperson has responded to a motion passed by Transport for the North (TfN) Board calling for the termination of Avanti West Coast’s contract.

Earlier this week, the TfN Board voted to write to the Secretary of State asking for Avanti West Coast’s contract to be taken back into public control and for the operator to be removed from the West Coast Main Line. This was due to continued disruptions and unreliable services offered by Avanti West Coast.

However, in response to this announcement, FirstGroup asserts that changing the operator will not solve the issues affecting the service, which instead need to be tackled in collaboration with the government, trade unions and other stakeholders.

Class 805 new livery
Avanti West Coast’s new Class 805 trains manufactured by Hitachi Rail
A FirstGroup spokesperson said:

“Our team at Avanti West Coast, and everyone connected with the train operator, are all working hard with a singular focus on delivering the service that customers expect. In recent months the service has been below expectations on some days, for a variety of reasons including driver unavailability due to historic leave policies as well as elevated sickness levels. Changing the operator won’t affect these fundamental issues affecting the service, which is why it is vital that we continue working with trade unions with whom we have had recent positive discussions, and continue working with government and other stakeholders on our plans to deliver long-term improvements in customer experience, resilience and a new fleet.”

In its efforts to improve the reliability of its services, Avanti West Coast states that it has already hired more drivers than ever before. It has also made recent improvements to rosters and training and has negotiated changes in historical leave arrangements. These actions aim to reduce resource volatility, improve operational resilience and deliver more stability.

What’s more, Avanti West Coast and ASLEF have agreed on an incremental use of rest day working, which will be especially helpful when introducing the new Hitachi trains. This will require 2,500 training days, thus taking drivers away from passenger services.

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