Northern leaders’ group calls for Avanti nationalisation

The Board of Transport for the North has voted for the termination of the Avanti West Coast contract, which it says should be taken back into public control ‘at the earliest possibility’.

The meeting in Leeds had considered a report which said ‘a continuation of the current situation is unacceptable to the North’, and members approved a motion for a letter to be sent to transport secretary Mark Harper, calling for the operator to be transferred to the DfT’s Operator of Last Resort, at least for now. 

The OLR has already taken over four other former franchises in England, starting with LNER in 2018, which had been the failed Virgin Trains East Coast.

Avanti West Coast had been granted a National Rail Contract last October, after periods of ‘probationary’ operation. This contract is due to run until October 2032 at the latest.

Two options were considered by the Board. One was 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 chose the second option.

TfN wrote to the transport secretary in December, asking him to instruct officials to conduct a critical review of Avanti West Coast, given the deteriorating service, after the operator announced a number of cuts to services over Christmas.

TfN chair Lord McLoughlin 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 statutory 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.’

Back to News

Related Articles