Following this week's announcement that First Trenitalia will continue operating the West Coast train services, I have received the following communication from The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Secretary of Sate for Transport:
"National Rail Contract for West Coast Partnership
I write to inform you that today I have awarded a National Rail Contact to First Trenitalia to continue operating the West Coast Partnership providing West Coast train services as Avanti West Coast, following significant improvements across reliability, punctuality and customer satisfaction. This contract, starting on 15 October 2023, will have a core term of three years and a maximum possible term of nine years. After three years, the contract can be terminated at any point with three months’ notice at my discretion.
The decision to award a contract to First Trenitalia was contingent on the operator continuing to win back the confidence of passengers. Over recent months the Rail Minister, officials and I have met regularly with First Group and Avanti senior management to understand the challenges and hold them to account for issues within their control. Avanti’s performance has improved significantly and in the Office of Rail and Road’s latest statistical release, in terms of reliability, Avanti is the most improved operator where performance is compared to the previous year.
Avanti-caused cancellations have been consistently below 3% since March 2023, and as low as 1.1% in July 2023, down from 13% in January 2023. Over 90% of trains now arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, improved from 75% in December 2022. Over 100 additional drivers have been trained and brought on since April 2022, and improvements to passenger facilities on trains include better seats, lighting, and charging points.
The transformation of Avanti’s performance over the past year demonstrates how, through working closely with Government, setting out clear set goals and being incentivised to succeed, the private sector can deliver on our railways.
However, I am clear there is still further to go, and Avanti must continue its work to restore service levels. Together we are working to develop a resilient timetable that is appropriate to passenger demand and delivers good value for the taxpayer. I will be grateful for your support in helping me and the industry deliver it."