Aslef says Avanti West Coast is ‘mendacity’ after agency blames service cuts on strikes

The prepare drivers’ union Aslef has referred to as Avanti West Coast “mendacity cheapskates” after the rail operator slashed its intercity timetables, blaming “unofficial strike motion”.

Avanti, which runs providers on the west coast mainline between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, has suspended ticket gross sales and stated it will run as few as 4 trains an hour from Sunday to attempt to minimize the rising variety of short-notice cancellations skilled in current weeks.

Trains between London Euston and Manchester shall be among the many worst affected, with providers minimize to only one an hour from each 20 minutes in a timetable now in place “till additional discover”.

Echoing claims made final month by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, that have been hotly disputed by Aslef, Avanti’s managing director, Phil Whittingham, informed business colleagues that cancellations have been because of the “present industrial relations local weather”.

In a letter seen by the PA information company, Whittingham wrote that the standoff had led to “extreme employees shortages in some grades by means of elevated illness ranges, in addition to unofficial strike motion by Aslef members”.

Aslef’s basic secretary, Mick Whelan, nonetheless denied that there was any unofficial motion, solely the strike deliberate for subsequent Saturday, throughout which union members would stroll out for twenty-four hours at 9 English prepare operators.

Whelan stated of Avanti’s claims: “They’re mendacity. Avanti doesn’t make use of sufficient drivers to run the providers they’ve promised to run. There isn’t a unofficial motion. We’re on strike on 13 August.

“They’re a cheapskate firm that won’t prepare sufficient drivers and depend on relaxation day working. The corporate is promoting its prospects quick.

“It’s a time of 12 months when many individuals are on vacation. Drivers don’t have to work additional time and don’t want to volunteer to work on superb summer time days.”

In accordance with Whittingham’s letter, Avanti usually ran about 400 trains every week utilizing drivers working additional time on their relaxation days however the numbers had “dropped all of the sudden to fewer than 50”. He wrote that greater than 250 new drivers have been being recruited and skilled.

On its web site, Avanti informed prospects: “The lowered timetable is being launched to make sure a dependable service is delivered so our prospects can journey with higher certainty. This determination was not taken flippantly, and we’re sorry for the big frustration and inconvenience this can trigger.”

Ticket gross sales shall be suspended till 11 September. Passengers who’ve purchased advance tickets for trains which might be not working can journey on the next or previous service, or declare a full, fee-free refund.

Whittingham urged Aslef to “have interaction in significant business reform talks round modernising working practices and creating a railway match for the twenty first century”.

Aslef members will stroll out on Saturday as a part of a wider strike over pay and situations, together with drivers at CrossCountry, Higher Anglia, Nice Western, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Members of the RMT and TSSA unions at Community Rail and as much as 14 prepare operators will strike on 18 and 20 August in comparable disputes over pay and jobs.

Avanti is majority owned by FirstGroup, in a 70:30 three way partnership with Italian state-owned operator Trenitalia, with a contract till 2026.

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