Avanti West Coast
Avanti West Coast Logo.svg
Avanti West Coast Pendolino 7.20.jpg
Overview
Franchise(s)West Coast Partnership
8 Dec 2019 – 1 April 2023[1]
Main region(s)
Fleet size
Stations called at46
Stations operated16
Parent companyFirstGroup (70%)
Trenitalia (30%)
Reporting markVT
PredecessorVirgin Trains
Other
Websitewww.avantiwestcoast.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Route map
West Coast Partnership service pattern (2019).svg

Avanti West Coast is a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by FirstGroup (70%) and Trenitalia (30%) that operates the West Coast Partnership franchise.

During November 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the InterCity West Coast franchise would be replaced by the West Coast Partnership (WCP). In August 2019, the DfT awarded the WCP franchise to the First Trenitalia consortium. On 8 December 2019, Avanti West Coast took over operations from the prior operating company Virgin Trains, which had run the franchise since 1997. Originally, the franchise was initially scheduled to run until March 2030, and had also been set to operate the initial High Speed 2 services from 2026.[2] However, during December 2020, it was announced that First Trenitalia and the DfT had agreed to terminate the WCP franchise at the earlier date of 31 March 2026 as part of the abolition of the franchise system.[3]

Avanti West Coast provide the principal long-distance passenger services on the West Coast Main Line between London, the West Midlands, North West England, North Wales and Scotland. Its services connect six of the largest cities in the UK: London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which have a combined metropolitan population of over 18 million. At the start of the franchise, the rolling stock used for these services consisted of 56 Class 390 Pendolino high speed electric multiple units and 18 Class 221 Super Voyager diesel-electric multiple units; in 2019, it was announced that the Super Voyagers would be replaced by newly built Class 805 bi-mode multiple units and Class 807 electric multiple units. Originally, Avanti West Coast was set to operate the pending high speed train fleet intended for use on High Speed 2, although the franchise is set to end prior to the completion of this new railway as of 2022.

History

In November 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the InterCity West Coast franchise would be superseded by the West Coast Partnership (WCP). The principal change of the WCP was the inclusion of the High Speed 2 (HS2) services, then envisioned to start around 2026.[4] Accordingly, the DfT required that bidders have experience in operating high-speed trains and the associated infrastructure, which led to all tendering parties either being, or partnering with, an existing high-speed operator.[5][6]

During June 2017, the DfT announced that three consortia had been shortlisted to bid for the franchise:[7][8]

In December 2018, the Spanish state-owned company Renfe Operadora joined the MTR-led bid.[9] During April 2019, it was announced that the incumbent Stagecoach-led bid had been disqualified after it had proposed significant changes to the commercial terms, specially in regards to staff pensions.[10][11] Stagecoach disputed its disqualification and launched a legal challenge to have it overturned; however, on 17 June 2020, the High Court ruled against the company and that the decision had been lawful.[12][13]

In August 2019, the DfT awarded the franchise to the First Trenitalia consortium with Avanti West Coast to commence operations on 8 December 2019.[14][15] The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a merger inquiry into the award of the franchise following a referral from the European Commission.[16][17] During December 2019, it was announced that the CMA had approved the franchise's award; concerns that limited competition on some routes could lead to higher fares and less availability of cheaper tickets were offset by the agreement of price caps to be present in some regions.[18][19]

Services

Takeover and COVID-19

Avanti West Coast currently operates the same services as Virgin Trains did on the West Coast Main Line. However, over the course of the franchise, several timetable changes are expected to be made. It was anticipated that, from December 2022, an additional 263 train services would be run every week.[20][21]

Services were curtailed during 2020 in response to the significant decline of passenger travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.[22][23] To help tackle the threat, new hygiene practices were introduced onboard Avanti services.[24] Occasionally, services had to be cancelled at short notice due to a lack of affected staff.[25] During 2022, Avanti West Coast begun ramping up service levels again, and issued public promises to restore full service to areas such as North Wales and Chester.[26][27]

Unlike services operated by London Northwestern Railway and London Overground, the Oyster contactless payment card are not valid on Avanti West Coast services between London Euston and Watford Junction, as Avanti services are pick-up only northbound and set-down only southbound at Watford Junction.[citation needed] In February 2021, Avanti West Coast launched smartcard ticketing as a more convenient and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional paper tickets.[28]

Industrial Action

Avanti West Coast was amongst those operators impacted by the 2022 United Kingdom railway strike, which was the first national rail strike in the UK for three decades.[29] Its workers were amongst those who voted to take industrial action due a dispute over pay and working conditions.[30][31] In response, Avanti appealed for the general public to avoid the railways for non-essential travel on the affected dates, these being 21, 23 and 25 June, as only a minimal service could be run due to the number of staff choosing not to work.[32] On 29 June 2022, Avanti West Coast's staff voted in favour of further strikes.[33][34]

2022 Controversy

Between 14 August and 18 September 2022, Avanti West Coast significantly reduced its timetable, citing unofficial strike action from its employees.[35] This was, however, disputed by Aslef.[36] The union accused Avanti of lying and blamed their lack of recruitment, especially of train drivers, for the problems. Trains were running at one service per hour on the majority of routes, as opposed to the three which would typically occur on the London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly route.

Following these changes, Avanti West Coast came under heavy scrutiny by the media and this was met with criticism from the public. News stories emerged of high cancellation levels of trains, overcrowded services, long delays and expensive fares. Many commuters have faced difficulties reaching their business destinations on the reduced services and some travellers have been left to wait a mere 2 days before travel for tickets to be released and on sale. This has been compounded by the use of the 9-car Class 390 train sets on the now-hourly Manchester services.

Although weekday tickets are available, weekend tickets and those for journeys more than 5 weeks away are still not on sale, as opposed to the normal 12 weeks on Avanti West Coast's website. Many routes are still facing less frequent services and very busy trains.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, expressed his frustration at the operator and has explained his intention to ask the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to strip Avanti of their franchise.[37] The CEO of Avanti resigned[38] amidst the controversy, however the problems remain ongoing. Many believe the rail operator will be unable to fix its problems.[39]

Routes

As of May 2022, Avanti's intercity routes are shown below:

London - West Midlands
Route tph Calling at
London Euston to Birmingham New Street[a] 1
London - Chester and North Wales
Route tph Calling at
Crewe to Holyhead 7tpd
London - Manchester and Liverpool
Route tph Calling at
London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly via Stoke-on-Trent 2
London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly via Crewe 1
  • Peak time trains additionally call at one or more of:
    • Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Nuneaton, Tamworth and Lichfield Trent Valley
London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street 1
  • Peak time trains additionally call at one or more of:
    • Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Nuneaton, Tamworth and Lichfield Trent Valley
London and West Midlands - North West and Scotland
Route tph Calling at
London Euston to Glasgow Central 1
London Euston to Blackpool North / Scotland via Birmingham New Street 1

Future services

Future services include:

Named trains

Further information: List of named passenger trains of the United Kingdom

Avanti West Coast operates a named passenger train:

Name Origin Destination Other details
Royal Scot Glasgow Central London Euston Non-stop Pendolino record for shortest trip between these two stations (3 hours, 53 minutes, 1 second)[41]

Classes of service

Uniquely among domestic train companies within the UK, Avanti West Coast operates three classes of service.

Rolling stock

Avanti West Coast commenced operations having inherited the existing Super Voyager and Pendolino fleets from Virgin Trains.

Current fleet

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Carriages   Number   Built   Notes 
 mph   km/h 
221 Super Voyager
Avanti Voyager departing Rugby 11.21.jpg
DEMU 125 200 5 18 2001–2002 Set numbers 221101-118
Refurbished and overhauled. Scheduled to be replaced from 2023 by Class 805 and 807s.[42]
390/0 & 390/1 Pendolino
Pendolino at Brandon Wood, geograph 7129326 by David Robinson.jpg
EMU 140 225 9 21 2001–2004 Pendolino (from the Italian word Pendolo) refers to tilting trains.
To be retained long-term and refurbished throughout.[43]
Avanti Class 390 0.png
140 225 11 31 2001–2004
  • Pendolino (from the Italian word Pendolo) refers to tilting trains.
  • To be retained long-term and refurbished throughout.[43]
4 2010–2012
Avanti Class 390 1.png

Future fleet

All 20 of the Class 221 Super Voyager units will be replaced by 23 new trains from the Hitachi A-train family with maintenance taking place at Alstom's Oxley TRSMD depot in Wolverhampton.[44][45] These trains are to be divided into thirteen Class 805 bi-mode multiple units and ten Class 807 electric multiple units.[46] Although the units will have the same top speed, they will not tilt like the Class 390 Pendolinos nor the Class 221 "Super Voyager" units they will replace. The Class 805 units are to be used for services to Shrewsbury, Chester, Gobowen and North Wales and the Class 807 units are to be used for services to Birmingham New Street, Blackpool North and Liverpool Lime Street (alongside the Pendolinos).[43][47]

Avanti West Coast had planned to operate at least 54 new high speed trains to conduct High Speed 2 services, these trains will be built by Hitachi Rail and Alstom in the UK and are expected to enter service between 2029 and 2033.[48]

Family Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes operated Entering service
mph km/h
Hitachi AT300 805
AWC-AT300.jpg
Bi-mode multiple unit 125 200 13 5 2023
Avanti Class 805 w-pantograph.png
807 Electric multiple unit 125 200 10 7
Avanti Class 807 w-pantograph.png
Alstom/Hitachi TBA Electric multiple unit 225 360 54[49] 8 2029-2033

Past fleet

In June 2022, two of Avanti’s Class 221 "Super Voyagers", unit nos. 221142 and 221143, went off lease.[50]

Notes

  1. ^ Euston - Birmingham trains are supplemented by Euston - Birmingham - Blackpool/Scotland trains, providing two trains an hour
  2. ^ a b c d e f Oxenholme and Penrith stations have irregular calling patterns

References

  1. ^ Britton, Paul (26 September 2022). "Avanti West Coast promises more Manchester to London trains in December". Manchester Evening News (in en https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-63169383 new contract). Retrieved 26 September 2022. ((cite news)): External link in |language= (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  2. ^ "Avanti West Coast prepares for launch on December 8". International Railway Journal. 28 November 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Two franchises abolished for good, as First and DfT agree terms | Railnews | Today's news for Tomorrow's railway". www.railnews.co.uk. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  4. ^ "New West Coast rail franchise to run HS2 services". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  5. ^ Lea, Robert. "Wanted: Superfast mover to partner Virgin and Stagecoach for HS2". The Times. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  6. ^ "RENFE poised to join Virgin's HS2 franchise bid". Railway Gazette International. DVV Media Group. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  7. ^ "West Coast Partnership and South Eastern rail franchise bidders". Department for Transport. 22 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Three shortlisted for West Coast Partnership franchise". Railway Gazette International. DVV Media Group. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  9. ^ "RENFE joins MTR's West Coast Partnership bid team". Railway Gazette International. 20 December 2018. Archived from the original on 11 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Stagecoach disqualified from three franchises in pension dispute". Railway Gazette. 10 April 2019. Archived from the original on 11 August 2019.
  11. ^ Murden, Terry (10 April 2019). "Stagecoach 'disqualified' from UK rail franchise bids". dailybusinessgroup.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Decision to disqualify bidders from rail franchise procurements was lawful: High Court". localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk. 17 June 2020.
  13. ^ Hart, Charlie (18 June 2020). "Stagecoach 'disappointed' by High Court ruling on rail bid ban". Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.
  14. ^ "FirstGroup and Trenitalia welcome West Coast Partnership Award". londonstockexchange.com. 14 August 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019.
  15. ^ "West Coast marks new partnership model for rail". Department for Transport. 14 August 2019.
  16. ^ "First Rail Holdings & Trenitalia UK / West Coast Partnership Rail Franchise". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  17. ^ Topham, Gwyn (27 November 2019). "West coast train services to be rebranded with Avanti logo". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  18. ^ "CMA accepts price caps on West Coast Rail lines". gov.uk. 6 December 2019.
  19. ^ Saker-Clark, Henry (6 December 2019). "Preston-to-Scotland fares to be capped after CMA probe into Avanti franchise". belfasttelegraph.co.uk.
  20. ^ "West Coast Partnership franchise improvements map". Department for Transport. 14 August 2019.
  21. ^ Hussain, Noor Zainab (15 November 2019). "UK watchdog could let FirstGroup, TrenItalia run West Coast rail franchise". reuters.com.
  22. ^ Hewitt, Sam (15 May 2020). "Avanti West Coast introduce social distancing measures". therailwayhub.co.uk.
  23. ^ Osborne, Samuel (27 December 2021). "COVID-19: Christmas travel disruption as Omicron hits rail and airline staffing". news.sky.com.
  24. ^ Hughes, Owen (12 June 2020). "Avanti West Coast 'fogging' trains with powerful sanitiser in Covid-19 fight". business-live.co.uk.
  25. ^ Dowling, Mark (January 2022). "Covid: Train staff shortage results in reduced Merseyrail and Avanti West Coast timetable". chesterstandard.co.uk.
  26. ^ Simmons, Jenny (28 February 2022). "Avanti doubles Manchester to London service on West Coast mainline as rail travel begins to bounce back". manchesterworld.uk.
  27. ^ Hughes, Owen (22 June 2022). "North Wales and Chester to get full return of rail services to London says Avanti West Coast". dailypost.co.uk.
  28. ^ Hewitt, Sam (22 February 2021). "Avanti West Coast launches smartcard to boost sustainability". therailwayhub.co.uk.
  29. ^ "Rail strike: RMT union votes for national action". BBC News. 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  30. ^ "The dates of the train, Tube and bus strikes this week, and how services will be affected". inews.co.uk. 20 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  31. ^ Stubbings, David. "When are the rail strikes? Dates and lines affected in the Black Country and Staffordshire". www.expressandstar.com. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  32. ^ Mawson, Brandon (23 June 2022). "Avanti West Coast urges only essential travel this Saturday". newsandstar.co.uk.
  33. ^ Hill, Joel (29 June 2022). "Avanti West Coast railway staff vote for further strikes". ITV News.
  34. ^ Robinson, Jon (9 June 2022). "Avanti West Coast staff could strike causing chaos for Liverpool passengers". liverpoolecho.co.uk.
  35. ^ Avanti West Coast (10 August 2022). "Train Timetables". Avanti West Coast.
  36. ^ Duffy, Nick (8 August 2022). "Avanti West Coast slashes timetable blaming 'unofficial strike action' by train drivers". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  37. ^ Britton, Paul (26 August 2022). "Andy Burnham reveals 'dangerous stampedes' for trains from London to Manchester". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  38. ^ "Avanti West Coast boss fired after timetable failures". the Guardian. 2 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  39. ^ "Is Avanti West Coast broken beyond repair?". The Independent. 20 August 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  40. ^ "Avanti West Coast Sunday 12 September to Saturday 11 December 2021 Timetable" (PDF). Avanti West Coast. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 November 2021.
  41. ^ "London to Glasgow record missed by 21 seconds - but Avanti West Coast surpassed a 2006-set record". RailAdvent. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  42. ^ "Operators face ongoing new trains woes". Modern Railways. 27 January 2022.
  43. ^ a b c "First Trenitalia awarded West Coast Partnership". Railway Gazette International. 14 August 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019.
  44. ^ "Hitachi Rail chosen to build new InterCity trains for Avanti West Coast". Global Railway Review. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  45. ^ Nowell, David (6 December 2019). "Inter-city rail operator's £350m new trains fleet to be built in UK". Lancashire Post. Preston. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  46. ^ Clinnick, Richard (9 June 2020). "Avanti confirms class numbers for Hitachi train order". Rail. Peterborough. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  47. ^ "Avanti West Coast launched". Railways Illustrated. February 2020. p. 6.
  48. ^ "HS2: New £2bn 225mph trains to be designed and built in the UK by Hitachi and Alstom". RailAdvent. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  49. ^ "Alstom-Hitachi joint venture wins £2bn HS2 fleet contract". International Railway Journal. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  50. ^ "Avanti hands back two 'Super Voyagers'". Rail Express. No. 315. August 2022. p. 26.
Preceded byVirgin TrainsInterCity West Coast franchise Operator of West Coast Partnership franchise 2019–2026 Succeeded byIncumbent