War of words with union after Avanti announces service cuts

 Avanti West Coast has announced a sharp reduction of its services from Sunday, saying that staff absence is making the current timetable unreliable. But the RMT is denying that absence is the cause of the problems, and is demanding a meeting with transport secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the situation.

Avanti is cutting its services so that there will be just one train an hour between London and Manchester, and one an hour to Wolverhampton, one to Glasgow Central and one to Liverpool. One of the Wolverhampton trains will continue to Edinburgh every two hours or to Preston, sometimes continuing to Blackpool North. A limited shuttle service will run between Crewe and Holyhead, plus connections to Shrewsbury and Wrexham. Ticket sales for future travel have been suspended temporarily until the retailing systems can be updated.

Avanti said: ‘From 14 August until further notice, we will be introducing a reduced timetable. This is due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by ASLEF members.

‘As a result of the majority of drivers declaring themselves unavailable for overtime our customers have faced multiple short-notice cancellations on our network which has had a severe impact on their plans.

‘The reduced timetable is being introduced to ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause.

‘We urge the rail unions to engage in meaningful industry reform talks around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century and we remain open for talks at any time.’

However, the RMT says allegations of unofficial strike action are ‘unsubstantiated’, and are ‘something that RMT and other unions strongly deny’.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps, saying: ‘Avanti are falsely and shamefully making allegations that this decision is due to unofficial industrial action when the reality is this decision arises from poor management, cutting staffing to the bare minimum and rock bottom staff morale.

‘I am presuming that you sanctioned this decision, and I would therefore be grateful for an urgent meeting to discuss the crisis, including clarification of the following points: Confirmation that your permission was required for Avanti to implement a reduced timetable. Is Avanti in breach of their contract with the Department of Transport and what sanctions will you be taking against Avanti? Has public ownership of the contract been considered?’

The DfT has yet to comment.

source= http://www.railnews.co.uk/news/2022/08/09-war-of-words-with-union.html

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