Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warns Avanti he will take action if services do not improve

Andy Burnham will urge the new Prime Minister to strip Avanti West Coast of its contract if it does not produce an acceptable improvement plan.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester held talks with rail firm bosses after services across the city-region were slashed.

Intercity operator Avanti, which has services that pass through Wigan, announced last week that it was reducing its timetable “until further notice”

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Services from London to Glasgow are now every hour, while trains from the capital to Manchester were also reduced.

Andy Burnham  Mayor of Greater ManchesterAndy Burnham  Mayor of Greater Manchester
Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester

Passengers can only purchase tickets a few days in advance.

Avanti claims the action is to "ensure a reliable service" as the "current industrial relations climate" resulted in "severe staff shortages through increased sickness, as well as unofficial strike action by Aslef members."

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Mr Burnham said: “We met Avanti to discuss the downgrading of the timetable for its services between Greater Manchester and London.

Avanti West Coast is operating limited servicesAvanti West Coast is operating limited services
Avanti West Coast is operating limited services

“We made clear to them in no uncertain terms our deep unhappiness at the way in which our city-region has been treated.

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“The severe reduction of services at this time of year is seriously detrimental to our economy. Avanti’s decision to take this action without any prior consultation or even notification shows a lack of respect for our city-region and its people, businesses and visitors.

“We have asked Avanti to produce a recovery plan that helps passengers in the short-term, but which also commits to providing more trains per hour between Greater Manchester and London as quickly as possible.

“In the immediate term, we have asked Avanti to consider the declassification of trains – suspending first-class restrictions – to make more seats available on the booking system at an affordable price.

“We also called for much clearer communications with customers about how and when to purchase tickets and for an end to the inflammatory language which is damaging workforce relations.

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“More broadly, we asked them for a timetable to return to the previous levels of service as soon as possible and a firm commitment that we will not find ourselves in such a position ever again.

“When we receive Avanti’s plan, we will consider whether it is acceptable for our residents and businesses and, if it isn’t, we made it clear to the company that we will ask the new Prime Minister to strip them of this contract.”

A spokesperson for Avanti West Coast said: “We welcome the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Greater Manchester and his senior leadership team to explain why we took this difficult decision to reduce our timetable.

"This is due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages.

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"As a result of this, customers have faced multiple short-notice cancellations.

"The reduced timetable was introduced to ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty.

"This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause.

“We value the mayor’s feedback and will fully consider these requests.

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"We remain committed to delivering the best possible services to the region.

"We urge the rail unions to engage in meaningful industry reform discussions around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st Century and we look forward to further talks on this.”