LSL Avanti West Coast capacity service (Photo: Tony Miles)

UK: With its drivers continuing to decline to work on their rest days, Avanti West Coast has worked with charter operator Locomotive Services Ltd to provided additional capacity into London Euston to support the large number of people wishing to visit the capital to pay their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

AWC’s services have been significantly reduced following the decisions by its drivers, and while it has been able to add a small number of trains back into its timetable recently, it turned to the independent operator to resource additional crewed trains.

From September 15 two return trips a day are being operated between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston by LSL using refurbished MkIII coaches powered by a Class 90 locomotive.

The trains are advertised as standard class only, but all of the accommodation has first class 2+1 seating.

While concerns were raised about provision for passengers with reduced mobility, Rail Business UK understands that the set has a fully accessible toilet and wheelchair spaces.

Further services into London Euston are to be provided by West Coast Railway Co under contract to Network Rail; an out and back train will run between Lancaster and London Euston from September 17 to 19 using MkII vehicles powered by locomotives 86259 and 86401.

It is understood that tickets will not be sold specifically for these trains but they will operate as unadvertised relief services with a WCRC source noting that the company was delighted to play its part in supporting the demand for travel and commenting ‘we have got to deliver.’

Political concerns about services

LSL Avanti West Coast capacity service (Photo: Tony Miles)

The AWC situation continues to anger Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who sent a joint letter with Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig to AWC Acting Managing Director Steve Montgomery ‘to register our serious concerns about the ability of Avanti West Coast services to support people wishing to travel between the northwest and London both over the coming days to pay their respects to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and into next month.

‘So far this week, we have seen numerous complaints about the quality and availability of services. We welcome the decision to add extra trains to the timetable this weekend but believe this must be accompanied by a significant improvement in customer service if we are to avoid some of the unacceptable scenes we have seen on trains and at stations.’

They also called for ‘an immediate blanket declassification of the first-class carriages on your trains for this period and make those seats available at standard prices on the booking system’.

The letter closed with another call for details of AWC’s plans to restore the full Manchester – London timetable.

In response, Montgomery told them ‘as we move through this period of national mourning, we have worked hard to see what extra services we can provide between Manchester and London. We have analysed passenger data and are already running additional services where they are most needed; for example, on weekdays between 06.00 and 08.00, we run seven trains from Manchester to London. In addition to that, we have put in place up to eight extra services a day this week — adding a total of around 16 000 extra seats.

‘I can now also confirm that we will be running four charter services a day between Manchester and London to provide additional capacity. Initially these will be relief trains, helping to spread customer demand, but as we continue to analyse booking patterns we will move them into the timetable where they are most needed and customers will be able to buy tickets directly for them.

‘We will be updating you on our wider plans to restore the timetable and increase the number of services we run shortly’, Montgomery concluded.