Labour has accused Avanti West Coast and ministers of risking chaos over Christmas after it emerged the rail operator’s new contract offers no ensures on improved weekend companies, and with tickets unavailable for reserving over the festive interval.
The shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, has written to the federal government in search of assurances about weekend journey alongside the vastly busy west coast mainline, saying the present state of affairs was “staggering”.
The rail operator had its contract to run trains between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh prolonged earlier this month on a short-term foundation till April, however was instructed it should “drastically enhance companies” after a serious contraction of its timetable.
Avanti in the reduction of the variety of trains in runs considerably in August – between London Euston and Manchester they’ve gone from one each 20 minutes to at least one an hour – and restricted ticket gross sales. The operator blamed unofficial strike motion, an accusation unions reject.
In her letter to the transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Haigh famous that the advance plan announced with the new contract made no point out of enhancements to what she known as “shambolic weekend companies”.
It was at present inconceivable for passengers to ebook any weekend tickets in any respect on Avanti West Coast all through November or over Christmas, she mentioned.
Haigh wrote: “It’s frankly staggering that at this important time of 12 months for companies, passengers are unable to ebook weekend journey throughout the size of the UK. This will likely be deeply damaging for regional development.
“That’s why you have to urgently tackle the gaping holes in your botched enchancment plan. So will you demand that these important weekend companies for the interval as much as Christmas are urgently made out there to ebook?
“Are you able to clarify why you seemingly handed over thousands and thousands of kilos of taxpayers’ cash with out securing this most elementary dedication within the first place? And may you define what number of complete weekend companies Avanti are planning to run all through this contract extension?”
An Avanti spokesperson mentioned getting tickets out there as quickly as attainable was a precedence. “Our weekday tickets can be found into December however weekends are made harder by engineering work, which is happening virtually each weekend till Christmas.
“We’re making progress although, and by early November we’ll be promoting weekend tickets 4 weeks upfront. We’ll proceed to push this reserving window additional out as rapidly as we will.”
A Division for Transport spokesperson mentioned: “As we have now been clear, present companies on Avanti are unacceptable and, whereas the corporate has taken optimistic steps to get extra trains transferring, it should do extra to ship certainty of service to passengers.
“Avanti has been given six months to roll out its restoration plan and ship long-overdue reliability for passengers, promoting tickets for weekend companies earlier is a crucial a part of that.
“The brief extension is a particular measure, which will likely be used to evaluate whether or not Avanti is able to working this important path to a typical passengers deserve and anticipate.”