Avanti West Coast boss to step down

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Avanti West Coast prepare

The managing director of under-fire rail agency Avanti West Coast is stepping down, the corporate has introduced.

An announcement from the prepare operator mentioned Phil Whittingham would go away his position on 15 September to pursue “different government management alternatives”.

It comes after the corporate confronted criticism for lowering timetables on its companies between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly.

It beforehand ran three companies an hour between the 2 cities

Avanti West Coast has blamed the slashing of its timetable to 1 service an hour on “extreme” staffing shortages.

It mentioned members of the prepare drivers’ union Aslef have been refusing to work extra time. The union has flatly denied any accusation of unofficial strike motion, saying the corporate must make use of sufficient drivers.

First Rail boss Steve Montgomery, who will now present government management help to Avanti West Coast, mentioned: “Having led the workforce by way of the challenges offered by the pandemic during the last two years and into the restoration interval, Phil leaves with the workforce prepared for the challenges in delivering the long run service necessities.

“I wish to thank Phil and want him effectively sooner or later.”

In a earlier letter to the rail trade explaining the timetable change, Mr Whittingham mentioned the “present industrial relations local weather” had resulted in “extreme employees shortages in some grades by way of elevated illness ranges, in addition to unofficial strike motion by Aslef members”.

Avanti West Coast mentioned it presently had extra drivers than earlier than the pandemic however relied on employees working extra time as a way to run a full timetable and sustain with coaching.

In a press release, Avanti apologised to prospects for the “monumental frustration and inconvenience” attributable to the decreased timetable.

A spokesman mentioned: “Our prospects and communities deserve a reliable prepare service, so we’re presently working exhausting to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable approach.

“Resolving this example requires a strong plan that can permit us to regularly improve companies with out being reliant on traincrew extra time, which has fallen dramatically in current weeks.”

The labour Mayor of Larger Manchester, Andy Burnham, has threatened to name for the corporate to be stripped of the franchise until it produces a plan to revive full companies by the top of Friday.

Talking on 18 August, he mentioned: “Once we obtain Avanti’s plan, we’ll take into account whether or not it’s acceptable for our residents and companies and, if it is not, we made clear to the corporate that we are going to ask the brand new prime minister to strip them of this contract.”

He has not but responded to information of Mr Whittingham’s departure, however has known as the scenario with the timetable as “chaotic”, with “tales of harmful stampedes at London Euston”.

Mr Burnham has additionally criticised ticket gross sales, saying passengers can not purchase tickets very far upfront, and are sometimes pushed to greater priced, much less versatile tickets.

Having now acquired the corporate’s response, Mr Burnham mentioned he would make an extra assertion on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Division for Transport mentioned: “Folks deserve certainty and confidence that their prepare will run on time, and whereas the change of schedule was unavoidable, it ought to minimise the fallout for passengers.

“This can be a prime instance of why we have to modernise our railways, so passengers profit from dependable timetables that do not depend on the goodwill of drivers volunteering to work extra time within the first place.”

On Wednesday, Aslef mentioned its members at 12 operators – together with Avanti West Coast – would take industrial motion on 15 September.

Individually, the RMT union has introduced two extra nationwide rail strikes later this month. Staff will stroll out on 15 and 17 September in a long-running dispute about pay, jobs and circumstances.

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