Andy Burnham dragged BBC 'kicking and screaming' to Salford
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The company is currently operating a significantly reduced service, with only one train an hour running between London and Manchester. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was highly critical of what he called “serious management failure” after the firm did not produce plans on how to restore its timetable. BBC host Ben Thompson grilled Mr Burnham over what could be done.
He said: “You said that they’re in the last chance saloon, if they don’t improve things quickly, you will reiterate your call for them to be stripped of their franchise or even possibly taken back into national hands.
“Is that the answer though? We can’t forget the days of British rail, we may remember some of them fondly but it was anything but good service.”
Mr Burnham replied: “One thing is for certain, the fares were much lower. Trains were much more affordable in those days.
“This company is getting tens of millions of pounds from the Government. They got huge bailouts in the pandemic.
“As I say, this is bad all around. Privatisation is bad for passengers and taxpayers.
“What I’m saying is getting the trains back at the earliest opportunity and whatever the solution gets us there is obviously the thing we want to pursue.
“This is damaging business in Manchester and it can’t be allowed to continue.”
The mayor continued: “What is the answer though? Avanti said they’re hiring more staff. We’ve seen staffing problems not just on the railways but at the airports, we’ve seen it elsewhere in the industries – there are just not enough workers.
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“What is the answer to fix this mess?”
Mr Burnham added: “The renationalisation of our railways. We have seen in my view that privatisation has completely failed.”
A spokesperson for Avanti West Coast said: “We know we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience.
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“Our customers and communities deserve a dependable train service, so we’re currently working hard to rebuild our timetable in a resilient and sustainable way.
“Resolving this situation requires a robust plan that will allow us to gradually increase services without being reliant on traincrew overtime, which has fallen dramatically in recent weeks.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”
The company also points to a major drop in the number of train cancellations since the new timetable took effect.
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