£17m paid to Avanti West Coast is ‘reward for failure’, says Labour

  • UK News
  • January 24, 2022
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The under-fire rail operator Avanti West Coast has been “rewarded for failure”, Labour mentioned, after the corporate was paid greater than £17m in taxpayers’ cash by ministers for efficiency and administration charges in simply two years, regardless of being the worst-performing operator on the rail community.

The figures from 2019-20 and 2020-21 embody virtually £4m in bonuses to Avanti for “operational efficiency”, “buyer expertise” and “appearing as a superb and environment friendly operator”.

On the identical time, the agency raised costs, with an open return from Manchester to London – barely a two-hour journey – costing £369.40.

The performance-related charges, signed off by transport ministers, got here regardless of Avanti being the worst-performing operator within the nation, with virtually half of its companies arriving late. Up to now two years alone the agency acquired greater than 50,000 complaints, probably the most of any operator and virtually double that of the parallel east coast mainline operator, LNER.

Avanti, co-owned by the Italian nationwide railways, has come below renewed criticism for slashing companies between main cities by as much as two-thirds on the west coast mainline, and earlier this week passengers have been pressured to climb a fence at Oxenholme station in Cumbria after being locked in as their practice arrived 100 minutes late.

Avanti West Coast, whose contract is due for renewal in October, already has the bottom passenger satisfaction score doable, a determine the transport minister Charlotte Vere mentioned final month was “horrible”.

Regardless of this, the Division for Transport (DfT) confirmed it will proceed at hand over tens of millions of kilos in administration charges, after ruling out fining the operator for the failing service.

The shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, has warned her counterpart, Grant Shapps, that the federal government “can’t proceed to scrub their palms of accountability, nor reward failure” because the injury to the economic system from the continued failure of the non-public operator mounts.

She has renewed requires ministers to urgently demand a plan from Avanti for the complete restoration of companies, get well taxpayers’ cash for companies that aren’t operating and, if an pressing plan to revive companies isn’t put in place, strip the corporate of the contract.

“This fiasco is inflicting actual injury to the regional economic system, passengers and the general public,” mentioned Hague.

“This authorities has willingly sat again and rewarded failure, handing over tens of millions of kilos of taxpayers’ cash for an abysmal service. Beneath the absurd system they’ve created, passengers at all times come final. It’s time for ministers to get up, do their job and maintain this failing operator to account.

“They need to demand a plan from the operator to urgently restore these companies, claw again taxpayers’ cash being handed over for companies that aren’t operating, and if they don’t act, they haven’t any enterprise holding the contract.”

A spokesperson for Avanti blamed the discount in service on “the present industrial relations local weather which has resulted in extreme workers shortages”.

He apologised to prospects for the “huge frustration and inconvenience this can trigger”.

The corporate is contemplating a request from Andy Burnham, the mayor of Higher Manchester, to scrap first-class restrictions whereas the decreased timetable is in operation, to suit extra individuals on trains.

The Division for Transport mentioned: “The division’s performance-related pay to coach working firms is independently evaluated by way of a scorecard standards based mostly on components comparable to operational efficiency, effectivity and buyer satisfaction.

“We’re assembly Avanti West Coast frequently to debate its efficiency and supply for passengers. This consists of guaranteeing efficient plans are developed to enhance its companies, together with mitigating points outdoors of its management.”

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