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‘A never ending nightmare’: Reaction to Avanti West Coast being awarded a long term contract to run inter-city trains

Passengers, rail unions and politicians have reacted to this morning’s announcement that Avanti West Coast have been awarded a long-term contract to continue to run rail services between Manchester and London Euston. Avanti will start a new rail contract on October 15 which lasts at least three years and could run for nine years, with ministers citing an improvement in services in the last six months.

The operator faced a storm of criticism last year from passengers and politicians when it drastically cut the number of trains it ran between Piccadilly and London due mainly to driver shortages. The poor service meant the government placed Avanti on two short-term six-month contracts and ordered it to develop a recovery plan and improve performance.

This morning transport secretary Mark Harper said Avanti were ‘back on track’. He said: “The routes Avanti West Coast operate provide vital connections, and passengers must feel confident that they can rely on the services to get them where they need to be at the right time. “Over the past year, short-term contracts were necessary to rebuild the timetable and reduce cancellations.

“Now Avanti are back on track, providing long-term certainty for both the operator and passengers will best ensure that improvements continue.” The decision has sparked a furious response from unions and some Greater Manchester politicians.

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Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has been a vocal critic of Avanti, especially when the operator cut services from Mancheter to London in 2022. He said: "It's frustrating because