Transport User Voice – October 2022 – Can passengers travel with confidence?

29 September 2022

Avanti timetable disruption

Last month Avanti reduced its timetable at short notice. This was frustrating for passengers who found they could no longer travel as planned..

The introduction of the temporary timetable was in response to a series of short-notice cancellations caused by staff shortages. Its purpose was to give greater certainty and confidence to passengers who were travelling.

However, it is clear from our own observations and evidence gathered from our Transport User Panel that the primary aim of ‘certainty’ was not met during the period of our survey.

We turned to the near 19,000 members of our Transport User Panel to better understand their experiences of travelling with Avanti and/or wanting to amend or purchase tickets. We also wanted to know what alternative travel arrangements panel members had made where Avanti’s reduced timetable could not meet their needs.

Within a few days nearly 600 panel members had told us of their various experiences – you can read our report here. Our key findings were that:

  • there was a lack of information throughout which left many confused
  • information, including the timetable, was not up to date which meant reservations couldn’t be amended
  • there were still many short-notice cancellations happening on a daily basis
  • the journey experience was poor with many services full with passengers having to stand and reserved seats being fully booked
  • the refund process was cumbersome, slow and there was not a lot of communication.

Many pointed out how the impact of this disruption is a lack of confidence in the railway. Passengers having a poor journey experience due to overcrowding, or fearing this may be the case due to there being less services, have put many off. The lack of information about future travel also made people anxious. Those with disabilities and additional needs said the situation has discouraged them from travelling by rail. It’s important that Avanti finds ways to improve the situation and build back passengers’ trust.

We shared our initial analysis from the survey with Avanti and the rail industry earlier this month. The evidence gathered helped Avanti put together a recovery plan that could include the much needed improvements that passengers want.

The recovery plan is a step forward in restoring services and trust for passengers and there needs to be real effort for it meet these objectives. Avanti must keep passengers and stakeholders frequently and fully informed on progress. Transport Focus will continue to monitor and report on the delivery of Avanti’s new plan over the next weeks and months.

It’s good to see Avanti is now planning to introduce additional services across parts of the network, and ambition to restore more services from December 2022.

TransPennine Express has now also moved to an emergency timetable and we’ll be monitoring passenger experiences on its services. Other services are still being blighted by cancellations and we are talking to operators throughout to try and ease the pain of passengers.


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