Avanti West Coast Trains – beyond a joke of a company.

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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 37 total)

  • rferguson
    Participant

    A little account of just how diabolical a company can be. Yes, the train is delayed but the crux of my beef isn’t the delay. It is the complete lack of communication or organisation from AVANTI staff. And I wish I could say this was a ‘one off’ but it isn’t. They are absolutely inept in communicating timely information during disruption.

    I had a ticket booked from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston on the 14:55 service today and treated myself to an in-app upgrade to First Class. I’ve been doing this commute weekly for the past couple months and know Avanti has a penchant for cancelling trains at short notice so I keep an eye on the ‘live status’ almost hourly on the day i’m travelling. Because despite having your email address and phone number they don’t do you the courtesy of advising you when your train is cancelled. Up until about midday, all seemed ok. Then around 12:30 I saw my train was cancelled. No biggie. They are fairly regular and one can jump on the train before or after the cancelled service you are booked on. It’s worth pointing out that the 13:55 train was also cancelled so I knew the 14:35 would be quite busy – obviously accommodating passengers from the cancelled 13:55 AND 14:55 trains.

    I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly in good time with time to spare for a coffee in the lounge. First glitch. A hand written notice on the door ‘lounge closed’. I checked the Avanti website to see if this was a recent change. Nope, the lounge is listed as ‘open’. No big deal. Re-assuringly, I could see a train on the platform well ahead of time. A good sign.

    So, I take my First Class seat and 14:35 comes. And goes. And we sit there. And sit there. And sit there. Eventually, an announcement is made that we are ‘waiting for a crew member and should be on our way shortly’. Another 20 minutes passes, no movement. No information. A crew member passes through the cabin ‘excuse me. Do you know how long the delay will be’? ‘No, we are waiting on a Train Manager’. ‘OK, so do you know how long it will take for them to arrive’? ‘No, I only serve the drinks. And the station staff can’t get through to control, the line is constantly busy’.

    Another twenty minutes passes, we are now 40 minutes behind schedule and I see an important looking lady pass on the platform walkie talkie in-hand. So, I approach her. ‘Excuse me is there any update’? ‘No, we are waiting on a train manager’. I said yes, we’ve been told this. But, where is the Train Manager coming from? Called from Standby? Coming in on another train? Her response was laughable ‘well we did find a train manager but he’s refusing to take the train out so we just have to wait and see if the train manager coming in on the train arriving at 15:35 will take this one out’. At this point i’m confused. This train manager is ON a train which is en route to Manchester, can you not contact him via phone and ask him so then you can pass the information on to your passengers? ‘Nah we just have to wait and see’.

    An arriving train pulled in from Euston at 15:32 that was due to become the departing 15:35. So, what Avanti does is conveniently turn the delayed 14:35 train ‘into’ the 15:35. So, now we have passengers from the cancelled 13:55 and 14:55, the passengers from the delayed 14:35 as well as all the passengers from the 15:35 we’ve now become, onto one train.

    You can imagine the carnage on the train. Bodies everywhere, on the floor, in the vestibules. The Train Manager finally arrives and announces that all carriages on the train including First have now been ‘de-classified’ and that there would now be no First Class service.

    £170 is the one way First Class fare from Piccadilly to Euston.

    We’ve just stopped at Stockport and Macclesfield and those boarding with First Class tickets are standing in the aisles.

    A lot of things I can understand and forgive – the delays, the cancellations, the no service in First. But the total and utter lack of communication and staff that have absolutely NO idea is simply unacceptable.

    Why do they not have staff on ‘standby’ like airlines do? Why is their communication chain with control so diabolical? Why can a train manager ‘refuse’ to take the service?

    One highlight of the journey was the cheery Train Manager welcoming passengers onboard the 15:35 train to Euston and ‘apologising’ for the 14 minute delay to departure. Obviously unaware that some people were due out at 13:55.

    A second highlight was being informed that I wouldn’t be entitled to a refund to my in-app upgrade because these are non-refundable.

    Happy days in UK PLC!

    6 users thanked author for this post.

    ASK1945
    Participant

    rferguson

    I have total empathy with you as my daughter-in-law is currently stuck in Liverpool trying to get back to London. I have a similar story to recount but I will wait for her to get back before doing so. Avanti are a shambles. As I wrote on another thread, the quality of a company is reflected by how they react to problems, not how they perform at normal times.

    However, from your story I suggest to you that “Delay-repay” is open to you as your trains have been delayed. The non-refundable aspect is not relevant. The upgrade was not delivered through no fault of yours so must be refunded.

    5 users thanked author for this post.

    PatJordan
    Participant

    When adding my thanks to ASK 1945’s post, I mistakenly hit “report”. I would be greatly obliged if this could be removed, and apologies for this silly mistake.

    Pat


    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    No problem, happens all the time.
    Thank you
    Tom

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    ASK1945
    Participant

    rferguson

    I have total empathy with you as my daughter-in-law is currently stuck in Liverpool trying to get back to London. I have a similar story to recount but I will wait for her to get back before doing so. Avanti are a shambles. As I wrote on another thread, the quality of a company is reflected by how they react to problems, not how they perform at normal times.

    However, from your story I suggest to you that “Delay-repay” is open to you as your trains have been delayed. The non-refundable aspect is not relevant. The upgrade was not delivered through no fault of yours so must be refunded.

    To follow up on what I wrote previously, my daughter-in-law flew in to London on Monday from overseas, with two teenage children, specifically to see her over-100 years old grandmother, whom she had not seen since before the pandemic and is in Liverpool. The booked seats on Avanti for the return journey from London to Liverpool were for Tuesday, but the train service was cancelled (as were many others) because of the hot weather. She changed her plans to yesterday, to take the same train times.

    They arrived at Euston well in time, duly went to the train and they took their seats whilst the train filled. At the moment of departure (10.07) they were informed that the service had been cancelled (no reason given) and advised to take the Holyhead train (on a different platform) and change at Crewe. Everybody rushed over to find an almost full train. They eventually found three seats (not together) and then moments later heard an announcement “Passengers for Manchester and Liverpool should not take this train and should return to the platform”. This was immediately followed by another announcement, as they were getting off, rescinding that announcement.Nobody from Avanti was around to clarify the position.

    As they were getting back on, a passenger told them that the next direct train to Liverpool would get into Liverpool before the train they were on, so they went to that and found seats.

    However, the later arrival meant there would not be enough time to see her grandma, so she decided to take the return train an hour later than planned. At the moment this was due to leave, there was an announcement about a short delay (with no reason given) and then no further announcements during the journey about the expected arrival time in London. As I was picking them up, I followed the progress of the train online and the arrival time kept slipping from a few minutes late until eventually the actual 50 minutes late.

    They returned home earlier this morning, from Luton Airport, without any delays there.

    I have filled in my “Delay-Repay” claim, which has been acknowledged an hour later by email. The online claims form must have been designed to confuse and my guess is that many passengers give up. I write software and even I found it difficult to follow.I should receive back (“in up to 20 days”) 50% of what I paid for the tickets.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Keith
    Participant

    I use Avanti regularly as they have monopoly London Manchester. Occasionally excellent service but routine is dire. Communications are awful by their absence. Virgin delay repay was automatic. Avanti system designed to make you give up

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    alistairNicoll
    Participant

    I remember back in the 90s when Chris Green was MD of Intercity and took the decision to issue mobile telephones to the senior conductors so that they could obtain information and pass it on to customers to solve this exact problem

    I am surprised that still the railway has to learn that it is not the problem that annoys as things will of course go wrong sometimes but how they deal with it. Clearly the focus remains on operations and to hell with the customer

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    RCinBelper
    Participant

    This may be slightly off-topic but InterCity Senior Conductors were excellently trained – and managers had it drilled in to them how to behave ‘in public’, i.e. on stations and trains, e.g. we always had to wear our name badges, ensure customers were seated before we sat down, etc. One day I’d been at a meeting in Newcastle with a more junior colleague. The train back to Birmingham was a couple of hours late due to a bomb scare closing the station. In those days there were two people on the train (excluding the driver) – the Senior Conductor and the buffet steward. We found the Senior Conductor, identified ourselves and offered assistance. Mobile phones were rare back then but me and my colleague had one each. We started at opposite ends of the train and worked our way towards each other offering connectional advice and use of our phones. We were close to Sheffield when we met in the middle of the train. My colleague looked shattered. I said: “And now we’re going to clean the train”. We got some bin bags from the buffet and it was done by Derby. This is not an ‘I’m great’ story, it’s about a company being clear about what is expected of its workforce and drilling it in to everyone in every role and at all levels. The original post makes me weep. RC

    5 users thanked author for this post.

    alistairNicoll
    Participant

    I certainly agree there were ( and still are) some truly excellent senior conductors but I am afraid there were others who unfortunately let the side down even back in the days of InterCity

    Although customer service was not always perfect there was a commitment to improve and much hard work undertaken to achieve it

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    rferguson
    Participant

    It seems a big part of the problems with Avanti (and the railways in general) is that there has been minimal enhancements in tech used compared to other travel sector industries like aviation or hotels.

    A friend of mine is a conductor for EMR and says that he has to rely on his own mobile phone to check the publicly accessible EMR and Network Rail websites to get information for customers (which is no different to the information the customer can get themselves). At many airlines staff have hand held devices issued by the company that are tied in with operational systems.

    Ticketing is also beyond old fashioned. Until very recently, if you called the Avanti call centre to change a ticket you’d booked online on their very own website, the call centre could not access it.

    Signalling and track technology hasn’t really changed within the last twenty-odd years.

    All of this is just a detriment to the customer. Because at the end of the day, a passenger travelling Avanti from say London to Glasgow cannot vote with their feet. The train companies are given a monopoly. And you don’t need to be an economist to work out how that ends up when it comes to customer dis-satisfaction. Like it or lump it.

    When all is working well I really enjoy Avanti and find their product and staff pretty good. But I judge a company more by how they deal with a bad day than a good day and it’s here that Avanti fails miserably.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    CathayLoyalist2
    Participant

    The modernisation of the railways is at the heart of the current disputes. A family aquaintance who works at Network Rail has said many times the unions have constantly resisted the technology NR wants to introduce i.e a train that can scan for broken rails taking numerous pictures in seconds versus the RMT who still insist on men walking the track. The crash at Hatfield was caused by a cracked rail the human eye could not see.The list goes on and on.

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    However Network Rail stated in 2021 that drones were being used (on some routes).

    Milestone drone flight for our railway


    alistairNicoll
    Participant

    the unions manage the railways and have done so for years Network Rail and the Trains companies operate the system. The unions have resisted all change and live in a world of their own and deploy two arguments to any dispute, No compulsory redundancies and safety.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    It was very difficult travelling with Avanti West Coast yesterday, partly because of the knock on of the strikes, partly because it was a Sunday timetable, and then someone was hit by a train and there were then delays of well over an hour on the late night trains (I was still at MK Central at 1115 waiting to pick up a teenage son from a train coming from the north).

    On the technology point, depending on whether I looked at National Rail enquiries live departures or arrivals, or Avanti’s own information, they were contradictory, despite being updated in real time.

    Eventually I tried to get information via direct messages on Twitter. That worked a bit better, but obviously they were overwhelmed with passengers doing just that.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    alistairNicoll
    Participant

    Tom, it says a lot when real time information updated in real time is different on Avanti and network rail. I was under the impression they were working from the same source but I may be wrong as long out of the game. Trust you eventually got reunited with your son.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 37 total)
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