Avanti West Coast’s incompetence is giving business a bad name
It’s hard to stay across the many strikes rendering Britain as functional as a loosely-set blancmange, but one announced on Avanti West Coast has caught the eye more than others.
Drivers at Avanti – the train operator on the west coast mainline from the capital up towards Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow – have announced they are to down tools over the imposition of new rotas which they say has occurred without proper consultation. It is the latest sorry chapter of Avanti’s annus horribilis, and it may suggest the firm’s monopoly on the line is coming to an end sooner rather than later.
A potted history is in order: Avanti, picked to take over the line from Virgin Trains in 2019, relied on outdated rotas which relied to all intents and purposes on staff being willing to work on their so-called rest days. Avanti to this day insist this was a sensible arrangement, rather than acknowledging that unless staff are willing to do such things, they simply don’t have enough drivers or staff.
Sometime in the middle of this year, Avanti West Coast drivers and staff stopped volunteering for rest day work – a move that Avanti described as effectively unofficial strike action, a critique unions resisted. Avanti have now imposed new rotas, and seen their drivers strike.
It is a sorry tale of corporate mismanagement and it could only happen on a monopoly operator. Without any serious competition, Avanti West Coast has grown complacent and its service delivery in the back half of 2022 can only be described as awful. It is absurd that the Department for Transport continues to let the firm operate a vital train service that it has shown itself to be incapable of doing.
And there is, too, a wider point. Most Brits’ opinions of ‘business’ – or indeed ‘capitalism’ – are derived from their experiences of the firms they interact with. Avanti are one such firm, and their incompetence does little for the reputation of the wider business community – and makes it easier for the nonsense calls of nationalisation to trump sensible calls for old-fashioned competition on our railways.