Andy Burnham issues final ultimatum to train operators to improve or be cancelled

In a column for the I this week, Andy Burnham has issued a final ultimatum for the beleaguered rail services
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Andy Burnham has offered a final ultimatum this week to Avanti and Transpennine to get their house in order, or he will be calling for the cancellation of their contracts.

Once again, the services have been appalling for those wanting to use the train services from Manchester.

He’s not the only politician to give Avanti a roasting this month too.

PM Rishi Sunak got stuck into them after it emerged that they had the worst official record with 7.7 per cent of all trains cancelled.

Disastrous

In the 12 weeks to mid-October, it timetabled 60 per cent of the trains it operated a year earlier.

Only 39% of their vastly reduced timetable ran on time from 1 July to 30 September.

It has also been revealed the scope of the problem is much worse than reported too.

Train operators have been using a loophole to cancel thousands of services, without officially recording them.

The Transpennine service have been using a loophope where if the trains are cancelled before 10pm the previous day, they do not report them as cancellations.

They therefore don’t show up in their performance figures.

Avanti West Coast should be providing three services an hour from Manchester to London – instead they are offering only one.

This is causing ‘over-crowding, late, with poor conditions on board’ according to the Mayor.

The Transpennine Express, which connects the cities in the North and also to Scotland is cancelling up to 60 services a day.

Mr Burnham added that this was playing havoc with commuters lives, who depend on the service to get to work.

He added: “The chaos on our railways is deterring tourists from visiting Manchester and other parts of the North because they worry about how they’re getting here and returning home.

“During this crucial winter trading period, local businesses are paying the price for the rail shambles.”

Mark Harper, the Transport Minister came to Manchester for a meeting with the northern metro mayors on Wednesday November 30.

Mr Burnham made it ‘crystal clear’ to him that the service was not good enough.

He said: “This is a government elected on a mandate to level up the North and deliver the investment needed to do that.

“I find it very hard to believe that if London and the South East were experiencing the level of disruption that we are, and its businesses and residents were being treated in this way, urgent action would not be taken to solve it.

“We have a new timetable coming in on 11 December, so it is time to set a clear test for the train companies.

“On Avanti, unless they restore three trains an hour by the end of December, we will call for the cancellation of their franchise and for the Government to bring in an operator of last resort.

“We cannot allow the chaos on the West Coast Main Line to continue in to 2023. On TransPennine Express, unless there has been a major reduction in cancellations by February next year, we will ask for their contract to be terminated when it expires in May.”

Mr Burnham said the operators were taking millions of pounds of taxpayers cash to provide a ‘basic service’ – and were failing by all measures.

Astonishingly, for delivering a reported third of promised services, they paid out £12m in dividends to shareholders last year.

You can read his full interview with the I newspaper by clicking here.

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