Rail operator Avanti West Coast has secured a six-month contract extension from the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT), after making ‘significant’ upgrades since October 2022.

Last year, Avanti West Coast faced criticism over service and reliability and was asked by the government to create a recovery plan to improve its performance on the West Coast Main Line routes, including between Manchester, Birmingham, and London.

The rail operator is said to have made notable improvements across its services, including a reduction in service cancellations from nearly 25% in August 2022 to 4.2% in early March 2023, and weekday services growing to the highest level in over two years.

Additionally, Avanti West Coast hired more than 100 drivers, with 90% of trains currently said to be arriving within 15 minutes of the booked time.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The routes Avanti West Coast runs are absolutely vital, and I fully understand the frustrations passengers felt at the completely unacceptable services seen last autumn. Following our intervention, rail minister Huw Merriman and I have worked closely with local leaders to put a robust plan in place, which I’m glad to see is working.

“However, there is still more work to be done to bring services up to the standards we expect, which is why over the next six months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.”

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The government expects further improvements in the service, which includes delivering more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption.