|Franchise(s)||West Coast Partnership|
|Stations called at||46|
|Parent company|| FirstGroup (70%) |
|Dates of operation||8 December 2019–1 April 2023|
Avanti West Coast is a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by FirstGroup (70%) and Trenitalia (30%) that operates the West Coast Partnership franchise.
During November 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the InterCity West Coast franchise would be replaced by the West Coast Partnership (WCP). In August 2019, the DfT awarded the WCP franchise to the First Trenitalia consortium. On 8 December 2019, Avanti West Coast took over operations from the prior operating company Virgin Trains, which had run the franchise since 1997. Originally, the franchise was initially scheduled to run until March 2030, and had also been set to operate the initial High Speed 2 services from 2026.However, during December 2020, it was announced that First Trenitalia and the DfT had agreed to terminate the WCP franchise at the earlier date of 31 March 2026 as part of the abolition of the franchise system.
Avanti West Coast provide the principal long-distance passenger services on the West Coast Main Line between London, the West Midlands, North West England, North Wales and Scotland. Its services connect six of the largest cities in the UK: London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, which have a combined metropolitan population of over 18 million. At the start of the franchise, the rolling stock used for these services consisted of 56 Class 390 Pendolino high speed electric multiple units and 18 Class 221 Super Voyager diesel-electric multiple units; in 2019, it was announced that the Super Voyagers would be replaced by newly built Class 805 bi-mode multiple units and Class 807 electric multiple units. Originally, Avanti West Coast was set to operate the pending high speed train fleet intended for use on High Speed 2, although the franchise is set to end prior to the completion of this new railway as of 2022.
In November 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the InterCity West Coast franchise would be superseded by the West Coast Partnership (WCP). The principal change of the WCP was the inclusion of the High Speed 2 (HS2) services, then envisioned to start around 2026.Accordingly, the DfT required that bidders have experience in operating high-speed trains and the associated infrastructure, which led to all tendering parties either being, or partnering with, an existing high-speed operator.
During June 2017, the DfT announced that three consortia had been shortlisted to bid for the franchise:
In December 2018, the Spanish state-owned company Renfe Operadora joined the MTR-led bid.During April 2019, it was announced that the incumbent Stagecoach-led bid had been disqualified after it had proposed significant changes to the commercial terms, specially in regards to staff pensions. Stagecoach disputed its disqualification and launched a legal challenge to have it overturned; however, on 17 June 2020, the High Court ruled against the company and that the decision had been lawful.
In August 2019, the DfT awarded the franchise to the First Trenitalia consortium with Avanti West Coast to commence operations on 8 December 2019.The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a merger inquiry into the award of the franchise following a referral from the European Commission. During December 2019, it was announced that the CMA had approved the franchise's award; concerns that limited competition on some routes could lead to higher fares and less availability of cheaper tickets were offset by the agreement of price caps to be present in some regions.
Services were curtailed during 2020 in response to the significant decline of passenger travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.To help tackle the threat, new hygiene practices were introduced onboard Avanti services. Occasionally, services had to be cancelled at short notice due to a lack of staff. During 2022, Avanti West Coast begun ramping up service levels again, and issued public promises to restore full service to areas such as North Wales and Chester.
Avanti West Coast was amongst those operators impacted by the 2022 United Kingdom railway strike, which was the first national rail strike in the UK for three decades.Its workers were amongst those who voted to take industrial action due a dispute over pay and working conditions. In response, the company appealed for the general public to avoid the railways for non-essential travel on the affected dates, these being 21, 23, and 25 June, as only a minimal service could be run due to the number of staff choosing not to work. On 29 June 2022, Avanti West Coast's staff voted in favour of further strikes.
Between 14 August and 18 September 2022, Avanti West Coast reduced its timetable, citing unofficial strike action from its employees. [ citation needed ]However, this allegation was disputed by Aslef, which accused the company of lying and blamed their lack of recruitment, especially of train drivers, for the problems. Trains were running at one service per hour on the majority of routes, as opposed to the three which would typically occur on the London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly route. Following these changes, Avanti West Coast was subject to public criticism; news stories emerged of numerous train cancellations, overcrowded services, delays, and expensive fares. Many commuters faced difficulties reaching their destinations on the reduced services and some travellers have been left to wait for to two days before travel for tickets to be released for sale.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, expressed his frustration at the operator and explained his intention to ask the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to strip Avanti West Coast of their franchise.During September 2022, the CEO of Avanti West Coast resigned amid the timetable controversy. In October 2022, the UK Government extended Avanti's contract for six months but stated "drastic improvements" were necessary. According to figures released by the Office of Rail and Road on 12 November 2022, Avanti West Coast had the worst record of train cancellations in the year prior to this date. The average rate in Great Britain was 3.8%, while Avanti West Coast had a cancellation rate of 8%.
Avanti West Coast currently operates the same services as Virgin Trains did on the West Coast Main Line. However, over the course of the franchise, several timetable changes are expected to be made. It was anticipated that, from December 2022, an additional 263 train services would be run every week.
Unlike services operated by London Northwestern Railway and London Overground, the Oyster contactless payment card are not valid on Avanti West Coast services between London Euston and Watford Junction, as Avanti West Coast services are pick-up only northbound and set-down only southbound at Watford Junction.[ citation needed ] In February 2021, Avanti West Coast launched smartcard ticketing as a more convenient and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional paper tickets.
As of December 2022, Avanti West Coast intercity routes are shown below:
|London - West Midlands|
|London Euston to Birmingham New Street||1|
|London - Chester and North Wales|
|London Euston to Holyhead||8tpd|
|London - Manchester and Liverpool|
|London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly via Stoke-on-Trent||1|
|London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly via Crewe||1|
|London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street||1|
|London and West Midlands - North West and Scotland|
|London Euston to Glasgow Central||1|
|London Euston to Blackpool North||1tpd|
|London Euston to Edinburgh Waverley via Birmingham New Street||1⁄2|
|London Euston to Glasgow Central via Birmingham New Street||5tpd|
|London Euston to Blackpool North via Birmingham New Street||2tpd|
Avanti West Coast commenced operations having inherited the existing Super Voyager and Pendolino fleets from Virgin Trains.
|221 Super Voyager||DEMU||125||200||5||18||2001–2002||Set numbers 221101-118|
Refurbished and overhauled. Scheduled to be replaced from 2023 by Class 805 and 807s.
|390/0 & 390/1 Pendolino||EMU||140||225||9||21||2001–2004|| Pendolino (from the Italian word Pendolo) refers to tilting trains.|
To be retained long-term and refurbished throughout.
All the Class 221 Super Voyager units will be replaced by 23 new trains from the Hitachi A-train family with maintenance taking place at Alstom's Oxley TRSMD depot in Wolverhampton.These trains are to be divided into thirteen Class 805 bi-mode multiple units and ten Class 807 electric multiple units. Although the units will have the same top speed, they will not tilt like the Class 390 Pendolinos nor the Class 221 "Super Voyager" units they will replace. The Class 805 units are to be used for services to Shrewsbury, Chester, Gobowen and North Wales and the Class 807 units are to be used for services to Birmingham New Street, Blackpool North and Liverpool Lime Street (alongside the Pendolinos).
Avanti West Coast had planned to operate at least 54 new high speed trains for High Speed 2 services, to be built by Hitachi Rail and Alstom in the UK and expected to enter service between 2029 and 2033.
|Family||Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Carriages||Routes operated||Entering service|
|Hitachi AT300||805||Bi-mode multiple unit||125||200||13||5||2023|
|807||Electric multiple unit||125||200||10||7|
|Alstom/Hitachi||TBA||Electric multiple unit||225||360||54||8||2029–2033|
In June 2022, two Avanti West Coast Class 221 "Super Voyagers", units 221142 and 221143, went off lease.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Carriages||Number||Built||Unit nos.|
|221 Super Voyager||DEMU||125||200||5||2||2001–2002||221142-143|
Trenitalia c2c Limited, trading as c2c, is an British train operating company owned by Trenitalia that operates the Essex Thameside railway franchise. It manages 25 stations and its trains call at 28. c2c provides commuter services from its London terminus Fenchurch Street and from Liverpool Street to east London and parts of Essex along the London, Tilbury and Southend line.
Southern is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) train operating company on the Southern routes of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise in England. It is a subsidiary of Govia, a joint venture between transport groups Go-Ahead and Keolis, and has operated the South Central rail franchise since August 2001 and the Gatwick Express service since June 2008. When the franchise was subsumed into GTR, Southern was split from Gatwick Express and the two became separate brands, alongside the Thameslink and Great Northern brands.
Virgin Trains was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Virgin Rail Group, a joint venture between Virgin Group and Stagecoach, which operated the InterCity West Coast franchise from 9 March 1997 to 7 December 2019. The franchise covered long-distance passenger services on the West Coast Main Line between London, the West Midlands, North West England, North Wales and Scotland, consequently connecting six of the UK's largest cities: London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which have a combined metropolitan population of over 18 million. Virgin Trains had around 3,400 employees in 2015.
Trenitalia is the primary train operator in Italy. A subsidiary of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, itself owned by the Italian government, the company was established in 2000 following a European Union directive on the deregulation of rail transport.
The British Rail Class 390 Pendolino is a type of electric high-speed passenger train operated by Avanti West Coast in the United Kingdom, leased from Angel Trains. They are electric multiple units using Fiat Ferroviaria's tilting train Pendolino technology and built by Alstom. Fifty-three units were originally built between 2001 and 2004 for operation on the West Coast Main Line (WCML). They were ordered as eight-car units, later extended to nine cars, of which some were then lengthened further to 11 cars. These new 11-car trains were renumbered as the subclass 390/1. The trains of the original batch were the last to be assembled at Alstom's Washwood Heath plant, before its closure in 2005. The remaining trains in the fleet were built in Italy.
The British Rail Class 221 Super Voyager is a class of tilting diesel-electric multiple unit express passenger trains built in Bruges, Belgium, by Bombardier Transportation in 2001/02.
The Bombardier Voyager is a family of high-speed 125 mph diesel-electric multiple units built in Belgium by Bombardier Transportation, for service on the railway network of the United Kingdom. Construction of the Voyager family took place between 2000 and 2005, consisting of three classes - the Class 220 Voyager, Class 221 Super Voyager and Class 222 Meridian. These three classes are currently operated by CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast, and East Midlands Railway (respectively).
London & South Eastern Railway Limited, trading as Southeastern, was a British train operating company owned by Govia that operated passenger rail services in South East England. It was the key operator of commuter and regional services in South East London and Kent, and also served parts of East Sussex.
CrossCountry is a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Arriva UK Trains, operating the Cross Country franchise.
East Midlands Trains (EMT) was a British train operating company owned by the transport group Stagecoach, which operated the East Midlands franchise between November 2007 and August 2019.
TransPennine Express (TPE), legally First TransPennine Express Limited, is a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup that operates the TransPennine Express franchise. It runs regional and inter-city rail services between the major cities and towns of Northern England and Scotland.
The South Eastern franchise, also known as the Integrated Kent franchise, is a railway franchise for the provision of passenger services between London and Kent in South East England.
Greater Anglia is a train operating company in Great Britain owned as a joint venture by Abellio, the international arm of the state-owned Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and the Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co. It operates the East Anglia franchise, providing the commuter and intercity services from its Central London terminus at London Liverpool Street to Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire as well as many regional services throughout the East of England.
Oxley Traction and Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot is a railway depot located in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, operated by Alstom to maintain Avanti West Coast's British Rail Class 390 Pendolino stock for the West Coast Main Line.
Virgin Rail Group was formed by the Virgin Group to bid for rail franchises in the United Kingdom during the privatisation of British Rail in the late 1990s.
The West Coast Partnership (WCP) is a railway franchise in the United Kingdom for passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line (WCML)(and branches thereof), between London Euston, the West Midlands, Shropshire, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Founded in December 2019, it is currently operated by First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Limited, comprising two distinct parts, Avanti West Coast which runs the current services on the WCML, and West Coast Partnership Development, which is the 'shadow operator' for future high-speed services.
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is a British train operating company. It is owned by the DfT OLR Holdings for the Department for Transport (DfT). The company's name echoes that of the London and North Eastern Railway, one of the Big Four companies which operated between 1923 and 1948.
Abellio East Midlands Limited, trading as East Midlands Railway (EMR), is a train operating company in England, owned by Abellio, and is the current operator of the East Midlands franchise.
The British Rail Class 805 AT300 is a type of bi-mode multiple unit which is being built by Hitachi Rail for Avanti West Coast. Based on the Hitachi A-train design, 13 five-car units are being built to replace Class 221s on services between London Euston and stations on the North Wales Coast and Shrewsbury lines. Their introduction will allow the elimination of long-distance diesel working on electrified routes.
The British Rail Class 807 AT300 is a type of electric multiple unit being built by Hitachi Rail for train operator Avanti West Coast. Based on the Hitachi A-train design, a total of 10 seven-car units will be produced.