Avanti West Coast rewarded with over £4m in taxpayer-funded bonuses | Rail transport

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Avanti West Coast was handed millions of pounds of taxpayer-funded bonuses for a period in which it was Britain’s worst train operator for delays, according to Labour party analysis.

The analysis, which used Department for Transport (DfT) figures published on Thursday, found the company was awarded the highest possible rating for “operational performance” and “customer satisfaction” between 1 April and 18 September last year. Those ratings contributed to a bonus payout of £4.1m.

But figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the government department that regulates Britain’s railways, showed that between April and June that year just 60.1% of stops by Avanti West Coast trains were within a minute of the scheduled time – the worst figure for all operators.

The shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, called the bonus payments a “scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money” and a “symptom of a broken rail system”.

“Ministers have rewarded abject failure, handing over millions of pounds in performance bonuses and fees to this failing operator,” she said.

“Rather than hold operators to account for shambolic performance, ministers are doling out taxpayer-funded bonuses.

“This is a symptom of a broken rail system where passengers come last.

“The next Labour government will bring our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire, ending the Tories’ failing system, and putting passengers back at the heart of our rail network.”

Avanti West Coast has also faced criticism in recent months over significant reductions to its timetable, cancellations, and overcrowding.

Ministers came under fire in October for renewing its contract despite the issues with the company’s services.

A new timetable introduced earlier this month featured a 40% uplift in services, according to the company, which is a joint venture between FirstGroup and Italian state operator Trenitalia.

A DfT spokesperson said: “This performance fee is based on data from before the current period of disruption. Avanti need to improve services on their network to ensure passengers can get the reliable, timely service that they deserve.

“We have put Avanti on a short term, six-month contract, as they roll out vital improvements and service upgrades and continue to monitor the situation closely.”

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