I am updating the House that the Department for Transport has negotiated a National Rail contract for the West Coast Partnership rail operator.
In March 2023, the Department extended the contract with First Trenitalia to operate passenger rail services on the West Coast Partnership. Under this contract, which ends on 15 October 2023, First Trenitalia—as Avanti West Coast—operates express services on the west coast main line.
Today we have awarded a National Rail contract to First Trenitalia to continue operating the West Coast Partnership, providing West Coast train services as Avanti West Coast. This contract, starting on 15 October 2023, will have a core term of three years and a maximum possible term of nine years. After three years, the contract can be terminated at any point with three months’ notice at my discretion.
Previously, I stated that the decision to award a contract to First Trenitalia was contingent on the operator continuing to win back the confidence of passengers, with a particular focus on more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations, and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption. The Department has worked closely with Avanti to restore reliability and punctuality to levels that passengers expect.
Avanti’s performance has improved significantly, with Avanti-caused cancellations consistently below 3% since March 2023, and as low as 1.1% in July 2023, down from 13% in January 2023. Over 90% of trains now arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, improved from 75% in December 2022. Over 100 additional drivers have been trained and brought on since April 2022, and improvements to passenger facilities on trains include better seats, lighting, and charging points.
The NRC will support the introduction of a brand new fleet of electric and bi-mode Hitachi trains later this year to replace its current diesel fleet which forms a key part of Avanti’s goal to run more sustainably and will result in a 61% cut in carbon emissions, as well as offering more space and a quieter journey for passengers. The new trains support the DFT’s strategic aims of reducing environmental impact and improving transport for the user.
The transformation of Avanti’s performance over the past year demonstrates how, through working closely with Government, setting out clear goals and being incentivised to succeed, the private sector can deliver on our railways. My Department will stay in close contact with the operator and local stakeholders to monitor Avanti’s performance as it continues its progress to a sustained recovery and increase services over time.
I am also updating the House that the Department for Transport has negotiated a National Rail contract for the Cross Country rail operator.
In October 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the Department entered into a unique operating cost franchise agreement with Arriva UK Trains Ltd to operate passenger rail services on Cross Country. The core term of this contract ends on 15 October 2023.
Today we have awarded a National Rail contract to Arriva UK Trains Ltd to continue operating the Cross Country rail services. This contract, starting on 15 October 2023, will have a core term of four years and a maximum possible term of eight years. After four years, the contract can be terminated at any point with three months’ notice at my discretion.
The National Rail contract with Arriva UK Trains Ltd includes the addition of capacity to replace the remaining high-speed Trains which are being retired, the refurbishment of both the existing Cross Country train fleets and the introduction from December 2024 of direct daily services between Cardiff and Yorkshire, the north-east and Edinburgh.