Labour threatens to strip Avanti West Coast’s contract over ‘woeful service’

Labour has said it will urgently consider stripping Avanti West Coast of its train operating contract if it wins the General Election.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh claimed the company has provided “woeful service” on the West Coast Main Line.

Office of Rail and Road figures show Avanti West Coast had the third worst reliability of all operators in Britain in the year to the end of March, with the equivalent of one in 15 trains (6.9%) cancelled.

The Conservative Government awarded Avanti West Coast – owned by FirstGroup and Trenitalia – a new long-term contract starting in October last year.

The agreement is for up to nine years but can be terminated with three months’ notice at any point from October 2026.

Asked about Labour’s plan to bring train services into public ownership, Ms Haigh told Sky News: “Our commitment is to bring in those contracts as they expire or when they are breached.

“I anticipate I will be seeking advice early on whether Avanti has been in breach of its contract given the woeful service that it’s been providing to passengers down the West Coast Main Line.”

She added: “No ifs, no buts, October 2026 will be the last date Avanti will have notice of that contract (ending) but I will ask for early advice about whether they have already breached their contract and whether it can be brought in any earlier.”

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “Recently we have introduced our new Evero fleet on the West Coast Main Line which has boosted capacity on the network.

“This combined with our refurbishment of our Pendolino trains, the introduction of standard premium and our Superfare ticket has significantly improved customer experience on our services.”

The West Coast Main Line runs between London Euston and Glasgow, with branches to locations such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and North Wales.