Avanti West Coast given another six-month contract extension after ‘recent improvements’

The DfT says further work still needs to be done to "restore reliability and punctuality to the standards that passengers rightly expect".

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 20th March 2023

Avanti West Coast has today been granted another six-month contract extension, after the government says it has made “recent service improvements”.

The company had previously been given until 1 April 2023 to continue running the West Coast Main Line from London to Glasgow by the Department for Transport (DfT), but had been told that it needed to “drastically improve” its services if it was to stand any chance of having the contract extended further beyond that date.

And now, it’s been announced by the DfT that after “significant improvements have been made since October”, the company has been awarded a further six-month extension to its contract.

The DfT says this decision comes after Avanti was ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed at “addressing poor performance on vital West Coast Main Line routes” – including between Manchester, Birmingham, and London.

Shortly after being placed on the first short-term contract back in October, Transport Secretary Mark Harper says he travelled to Manchester to meet with stakeholders so he could “further understand what could be done to address the situation and improve services” – and, according to the DfT, this meeting led to the decision to introduce a recovery timetable.


The recovery timetable, which was introduced on 11 December 2022, is said to have since “significantly reduced reliance on overtime working” and has seen services increase from 180 trains per day to 264 on weekdays – which is apparently the highest level in over two years.

The government believes Avanti West Coast has seen “very significant improvements across services” since the introduction of this timetable.


As well as an increase to weekday services, the DfT says Avanti West Coast has also seen a reduction in service cancellations from nearly 25% in August 2022, to 4.2% in early March 2023, which is the lowest in over 12 months.

90% of trains are also said to now arriving within 15 minutes of the booked time, and over 100 additional drivers have been recruited – which is “reducing reliance on union-controlled overtime working”.

The contract extension comes after ‘recent service improvements’ / Credit: Avanti West Coast

The government has conceded though that, although Avanti West Coast has made “significant progress” in the past six months, further work needs to be done to “restore reliability and punctuality to the standards that passengers rightly expect”.


This will include delivering more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations, and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption.

“The routes Avanti West Coast run are absolutely vital,” Transport Secretary Mark Harper said.

“I fully understand the frustrations passengers felt at the completely unacceptable services seen last Autumn, but following our intervention, Rail Minister Huw Merriman and I have worked closely with local leaders to put a robust plan in place, which I’m glad to see is working.

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“However, there is still more work to be done to bring services up to the standards we expect, which is why over this next six months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.”

Featured Image – Avanti West Coast