TSSA today (Friday) condemned Avanti West Coast for “misleading passengers” after the train operator inaccurately blamed unions for their spate of service cancellations, with the union calling on the train operator to “stop fibbing and recruit more staff”.
TSSA has accused Avanti of failing to fill staff vacancies and instead relying on staff working overtime to run core services. The union is speaking out after Avanti suspended ticket sales for travel from Sunday 14 August until 11 September while a new schedule is finalised and publicly blamed industrial action for train cancellations, despite no action taking place during the period they made the allegation.
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The simple truth is that Avanti don’t employ enough staff. That’s why they can’t run the trains. It’s got nothing to do with industrial action.
“Avanti only employ enough drivers for a six day a week service – even though they are subsidised by the taxpayer to provide a seven day a week service. It’s not hard to see why they’re having to cancel trains – no company should rely on staff permanently doing overtime.”
TSSA members working in Avanti have raised concerns about high workloads and stress levels of staff having to cope with short-staffed teams for months on end. At Avanti’s flagship London ticket office at Euston station, there are 12 vacancies which management are refusing to fill until sick levels are reduced. But those remaining staff are being asked to cover multiple jobs with higher stress levels.
On Monday 8 August, a Manchester Piccadilly service was cancelled and passengers were told it was "due to a shortage of train crew". However, the driver, train manager and catering staff were all ready to work the service, leaving them confused and scapegoated.
On Thursday 4 August, Avanti Tweeted: “Some of our services may be cancelled at short notice because of traincrew shortages. This is likely to continue until the current industrial dispute is settled.”
“Avanti is deliberately understaffed and it’s having a dangerous effect on staff wellbeing and operational performance,” said Cortes. “High workloads, stress and lingering effects of covid with little support from the employer is a toxic combination. It also makes for a miserable experience for passengers having to endure incredibly long queues – especially those with disabilities for whom standing is difficult or painful.
“Avanti don’t seem to have a plan to fix this beyond ‘cut services and blame the unions’ – a complete dereliction of duty!
“Instead of putting the blame for their mistakes on our hard-working members, Avanti needs to stop fibbing and start recruiting staff. Misleading passengers and demonising rail workers must stop.
“If they can’t do that then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps should roll up his sleeves and get to work solving this problem – something sadly very unlikely given the current zombie government.”