Is it Avanti? The award for Britain’s worst rail network goes to….
Avanti West Coast is the country’s worst train operator when it comes to cancellations, according to a new ranking.
A Press Association analysis of recent data published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows that Avanti West Coast’s cancellation score for the four weeks ended 7 January was 18.9 per cent.
Cancellation score represents the percentage of trains cancelled, with full cancellations counting as one and part-cancellations counting as 0.5.
This is 10.9 per cent higher than the UK’s average for the same period, and 4.5 per cent higher than between 24 July and 20 August.
Over the summer, the beleaguered train operator was forced to slash train timetables after a drop in the number of drivers willing to work on rest days.
Considered an industry practice by most train companies, overtime work is not mandatory and staff can decide whether to withdraw from it, especially amid the current industrial climate.
Since then, Avanti has been granted a six-month government extension to turn things around, which is set to expire in early April.
The company introduced an improved timetable on 11 December – which doesn’t rely on extra time – as it increased the number of daily trains from 180 to 264.
Nevertheless, out of the 4,096 trains that were planned for the period between 11 December and 7 January, 648 services were fully cancelled while 253 trains were partially axed.
An Avanti spokesperson said that “performance has steadily improved since the four-week period ORR is reporting on and we’re running far more services than we were in the autumn,” while the Department for Transport said it continued to monitor the situation closely.
The analysis comes as rail minister Huw Merriman told members of the Commons’ transport select committee last week he needed to make a decision about Avanti’s contract soon.
“It will be a decision based on who’s best placed to run that operator, and if the operator is turning matters around, that would suggest it’s them,” Merriman said last Wednesday.
“Then if not, then I would not hesitate to change it.”
If Avanti proved incapable of operating by itself, then the government would essentially nationalise it under the operator of last resort scheme.
Five rail firms – LNER, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Transport for Wales and Scotrail – are part of the scheme.
Avanti is not the only company to report high cancellation levels, as the cancellation score for Southeastern, Govia Thameslink and LNER in the four weeks to 7 January was 12.2, 11.9 and 10.2 per cent respectively.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was working closely with the industry “to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and long term solutions are put in place, including the swift recruitment and training of new drivers.”