Avanti West Coast makes Friday an ‘off peak’ day

Avanti West Coast has removed Friday morning peak restrictions on long distance journeys to and from London Euston starting from today, 20 November.

The trial, which will run into the New Year, means customers can take advantage of the full range of Off Peak and Advance tickets throughout the day and make a much earlier start to their weekend.

The current Friday morning peak restrictions means customers with Off Peak tickets must wait until typically 09:30 before starting their journeys. For example, the first Off Peak train from Manchester to London is the 09:35 departure, which arrives into Euston just before midday. Customers will now be able to travel on any train (from as early as 05:05) and make the most of their Fridays.

Customers who previously travelled in the morning peak on a Friday, with a fully flexible ticket, will save on average around 50% – 60%. For example, a customer will pay no more than £64.40 for a Standard single from Manchester to London (a saving of 64% on the current walk-up fare), and as little as £25 with the lowest priced Advance Fare (previously  unavailable on peak time services).

Afternoon peak restrictions on a Friday were already removed and this move makes the entire day “off peak”.

Sarah Copley, Executive Director, Commercial at Avanti West Coast said: “Removing the Friday morning restrictions gives customers more freedom to choose when they travel and when lockdown measures ease make the most of their extended weekends and days out.

“Just as importantly it allows us to spread demand and maintain social distancing onboard our services. This will help our customers who decide to travel, to travel with confidence.”

David Sidebottom, Director, Transport Focus added: “Passengers will welcome this trial. Any move that helps save money and maintain social distancing should prove popular, and when the time is right, encourage more people to use rail services again.”  

Avanti West Coast signs up for Rail Aid

Avanti West Coast is offering enthusiasts the chance to get their hands on some eagerly sought after railway artefacts to help raise money for charity.

A number of signs from Crewe station are up for grabs, the proceeds of the auction going to Rail Aid, the Railway Children’s week long fundraising initiative taking place later this month.

The large station signs, measuring 1.98m x 56cm, come in two designs and were taken down earlier in 2020 after many years use at a station familiar to so many rail travellers. 

Rail Aid is a new fundraising mission led by charity Railway Children, bringing the best of the UK rail community together to raise money and help vulnerable children whose lives have been impacted by coronavirus.  

“The signs have helped welcome so many customers over the years, so we really wanted to find them good homes,” said Karen Grimshaw, Station Manager for Avanti West Coast at Crewe. “And if we can raise some money for such a fantastic cause at the same time, even better.”

Across the rail industry, individuals and businesses will be taking part in a week of activities (Nov 22nd – 27th www.railaid.co.uk ), culminating in a live online show, celebrating achievements, featuring some of the key figures in rail and showcasing the industry at its very best.

Terina Keene, Chief Executive, Railway Children, said: “So many people have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19 and that means children, both in the UK and overseas, are even more vulnerable to finding themselves on the street and in need of our support.

“The railway family has played such a key role during a time of national emergency and we really appreciate the support of Avanti West Coast.”

How do I bid for a sign?

Anyone interested in bidding for one of the signs should email richard.stanton@avantiwestcoast.co.uk , including their details and confirmation of their bid. The signs are expected to fetch in the region of £100 each.

The auction closes at midnight on Saturday 21st November. Winning bidders will be notified the following Monday, with all proceeds going to Rail Aid. Collection will be from Crewe station.

Avanti West Coast makes young rail enthusiast’s day

Avanti West Coast has helped a youngster’s dreams come true with VIP tour of Stafford station for an afternoon of trainspotting heaven.

Dillon Jones, 12, has his heart set on a career on the railway and was invited to join the Avanti West Coast team where he got the chance to try his hand at a number of duties including making his own station announcements.

Dillon, who has autism, is a passionate train enthusiast and a regular at Stafford station. On a recent visit, his first since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was presented with his own Avanti West Coast pin badge.  

After his mother, Jo, posted a message of thanks on a local Facebook Group, the pair were invited back by the team for a behind the scenes visit.

She said: “Dillon was made up to get his pin badge. He wanted to show it to everyone and tell them he worked for Avanti West Coast.

“He loves his trains. They play a big part in his life and how he copes with his autism.  The team at the station were so kind, patient and understanding. To get invited back was the icing on the cake. It has really boosted his confidence and his dreams now seem more realistic. Thank you for making my little man’s week.”

Mark Sefton, Customer Service Team Leader for Avanti West Coast at Stafford, said: “It was great to be able to invite Dillon along to the station for some hands-on, real-life experience.

“He did a great job and we hope it’s whetted his appetite for a possible career on the railways. At a time when the world is having to deal with so much, it was great to see that passion and his wonderful smile.”

As part of the afternoon, Dillon was presented with some Avanti West Coast gifts as well as a 12-month subscription to Railcam, the website that allows users to access real time footage of trains throughout the UK.

Simon Deane, Railcam News and Features Editor said: “Railcam is delighted to join with Avanti West Coast in providing Dillon with a memorable day. The COVID-19 pandemic had caused many traditional rail enthusiasts to furlough their hobby. Railcam has provided a virtual world of spotting from home. With over 100 camera streams available we think Dillon may be spoilt for choice.”

“At-Seat Order” catering service introduced by Avanti West Coast

Customers are set to benefit from a new service where they can have food and drink delivered to their seat.

  • Customers in Standard can now order food and drink delivered to their seat
  • Trials have proved a hit with those using the service
  • The onboard shop remains open and ‘Click and Collect’ is also being tested

Avanti West Coast customers are set to benefit from a new service where they can have food and drink delivered to their seat.

Whilst customers in First Class have always enjoyed being served at their seat, trials are currently taking place on selected Pendolino trains which enable customers in Standard to order food and drink and have it delivered to them.

Customers can log on to the onboard Wi-Fi using their mobile phone, tablet or laptop and then visit the dedicated page in their browser to choose their refreshments.

Payment is through debit or credit cards or PayPal. The order is then delivered to their seat by an onboard Customer Service Assistant.

Avanti West Coast is also testing Click and Collect – giving customers the option to choose food and drink at their seat before collecting from the onboard shop. Those using this will get a notification by text when their order is ready to collect.

While the trials, known as At Seat Order, take place, the onboard shop will remain open if customers prefer to buy their food and drink in the more traditional way.

Initial feedback shows the service has proved successful so far and Avanti West Coast will look to roll it out across the network if the good results continue.

One customer, who used the service, said: “I didn’t need to leave my seat and I was able to fully relax on my journey.”

Another said: “It gave me an enhanced perception that Avanti care about my onboard experience.”

The service would run alongside the onboard Shop on all Pendolino services, which has now been installed with protective screens and safety lines in place to promote social distancing.

“We’re always striving to improve the experience for our customers and these new services will let customers choose the most convenient way for them to buy food and drink. The feedback so far has been really positive,” said Sarah Copley, Executive Director, Commercial at Avanti West Coast.

“For those travelling on their own or who don’t want to leave their seat – this is a perfect solution.

“Alongside our increased safety measures, this innovation enables customers to pay for their items digitally providing them with even more reassurance when they travel with Avanti West Coast.”

Earlier this month the complimentary at-seat catering service was reintroduced in First Class on all Pendolinos, along with a new menu, and last week it also returned to the Voyager fleet.  It was halted as a precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further safety measures introduced on our services see: www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk

Avanti West Coast to run more services from September

Avanti West Coast restores a number of direct links to London as part of its September 7 timetable uplift. 

  • Direct links to and from London restored for Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Chester and North Wales, Blackpool and Edinburgh
  • New timetable up to 90% of pre-COVID service levels
  • Customers reminded to book ahead and wear a face covering

Avanti West Coast will be restoring services to several destinations from Monday 7 September as part of changes to its timetable.

Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Blackpool and Edinburgh will all see the return of direct Avanti West Coast services to and from London for the first time since lockdown measures were enforced. North Wales will also be served by one train in each direction between Holyhead and Euston, supplemented by a shuttle service along the coast from Crewe. Chester will have three direct trains to London Euston.

In addition, the West Coast Main Line operator will continue to provide the additional early morning services between Milton Keynes to London that started in July and the late afternoon return services

The new timetable, with its 285 services (Monday to Friday), represents just over 90% of the normal pre-COVID levels.

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “These additional services will mean more room for social distancing onboard.  We would like to remind customers to book ahead, reserve their seat and wear a face covering whilst at the station and onboard our services.”

Avanti West Coast has also reintroduced its First Class at-seat service on their Pendolino services, whilst increasing the range of items to purchase from the onboard shop.

Avanti West Coast – First refreshed Super Voyager returns to service!

The first pictures of Avanti West Coast Super Voyager 221101 have been released after its return to service.

Standard class interior of set 221101 after it’s refresh

The refresh was the first in an £8.3m deal which was signed with Bombardier last year.

We reported on the plans in July and the full details can be seen here.

Super Voyager 221101 cab with it’s Avanti West Coast branding

Avanti West Coast launches customised real-time journey updates onboard

  •  Train operator develops new onboard service that updates customers on journey status
  • ‘Track My Train’ keeps customers informed onboard at the tap of a screen
  • Customers can track their train in real-time using own device

Avanti West Coast has launched a new passenger information service giving real-time journey updates to customers at their fingertips.

The onboard service called ‘Track My Train’, enables customers to follow the progress of the train they’re travelling on in real-time, using their own personal device.

Accessed exclusively through Avanti West Coast’s Wi-Fi homepage at the tap of a screen, Track My Train brings together live updates of a train’s journey and onward connections, tailoring it to each customer’s journey.

Developed in partnership with transport infotainment specialist, GoMedia, the onboard service uses live data from industry systems to show exactly where a train is, estimated arrival times along the route, any disruptions, and departure details for other rail services – all in one place. Therefore, customers can check the status of their journey without having to switch between screens or filter information.

To stay up-to-date onboard customers simply connect their device to the Wi-Fi and select the Track My Train icon. The tool auto-populates information relating specifically to the customer’s journey – helping to make the end-to-end experience more seamless. 

The technology is the latest initiative to be rolled out across Avanti West Coast’s fleet of Pendolino and Super Voyager trains. It follows on from the introduction of Avanti Media – a free on-board entertainment service that allows customers to stream movies, TV box-sets, games, magazines and newspapers to their personal device.

Bob Powell, Customer Proposition Director at Avanti West Coast, said: “We know how important it is for our customers to stay informed during their journey and Track My Train helps to do just that. This new service makes it easier for customers to follow their train’s progress while onboard, by providing concise and reliable information, tailored to journeys in real-time, at the tap of a screen.

“It has been great to work with GoMedia to develop this technology and we’re excited to offer it as part of our latest initiative to enhance the overall experience when travelling with us.”

Roger Matthews, managing director at GoMedia, adds: “Providing passengers with real-time information about their individual route, including connections and stations, creates a truly personalised experience, giving users control over their entire journey, door-to-door. This is now more important than ever with changing restrictions on the way we use public transport.”

Voyager fleet upgraded by Avanti West Coast

  • Voyagers serving West Coast Main Line to get refresh
  • Deal signed with Bombardier to improve interiors of the fleet
  • Changes ahead of the delivery of new trains in 2022

Avanti West Coast’s Voyager fleet is to benefit from an upgrade with the first train to be completed later this month (July).

Voyager refurb vestibule (CGI Impression)

The 20 Voyagers – which operate over the non-electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line in addition to running from London to Scotland, via the West Midlands – are being overhauled following an £8.3m deal which was signed with Bombardier last year.

New Standard Class seats covers, saloon and carpets will be included as part of the overhaul as well as a revamped toilet area. All lighting will also be replaced with LEDs.

The interior bodyside and ceiling panels in standard class saloons, vestibules as well as toilets will also be repainted.

It was announced last year that the West Coast Main Line will take delivery of 23 new Hitachi Rail Classes 805 and 807 trains in 2022 to replace the Voyagers.

Avanti West Coast Executive Director, Projects, Andy Barnes, explained: “We know that ultimately our Voyagers will be retired from the West Coast Main Line.

 “But with two years on the rails, we wanted to improve them and not leave them as they are. All these improvements should enhance the customer experience and, as you will see from the images, will leave them looking very smart.

“It’s a significant investment that shows we will take every opportunity to invest and improve our product and service wherever we can.”

Voyager refurb 1st class (CGI Impression)

Bombardier Transportation’s Chief Operating Officer, Tim Bentley, said; “We are delighted to be partnering with Avanti West Coast on this fleet upgrade. The Voyager remains a great train and by refreshing the customer environment we can keep them that way.”

All 20 sets are set be completed by December 2020. They will be upgraded at Bombardier’s site in Ilford, east London.

“Tales from the Track” treats Avanti West Coast fans to a driver’s view

  • Eight-part video series gives viewers experience of inside a driver’s cab
  • Features commentary from two experienced Avanti West Coast drivers
  • Aims to inspire the next generation of railway drivers

Avanti West Coast has treated those missing rail travel to a new video series giving viewers a fascinating insider-look from the unique viewpoint of a train driver.

The eight-part video series, Tales from the Track, was recorded during lockdown and showcases the West Coast Main Line from inside the driver’s cab of an iconic Pendolino.

Using a front-mounted digital camera, the series guides viewers with uninterrupted views, complemented by commentary from two experienced Avanti West Coast drivers who discuss points of interest and impart their wisdom along the way. 

The vignettes highlight the ‘best of’ of the inter-city operator’s London Euston to Glasgow Central route, featuring stunning scenery. This is combined with soothing tones of drivers, Darran Townsend and Dave Egerton, providing the voice-overs throughout.

With over 50 years driving experience between them, Darran and Dave provide anecdotes and interesting facts about the West Coast Main Line from The Great Train Robbery in 1963 where £2.6 million was stolen, to accounts of 2am journeys through the Lake District under a full moon with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountains. For the diehard rail aficionados, Darran and Dave also recall the 1937 record breaking steam engine journey which accidentally broke the speed limit on the approach to Crewe, having just set a speed record of 114mph with its 6220 Coronation Class engine.

Darran, a Driver Team Manager at Preston, is a third-generation railway man, who followed in his father’s footsteps. Dave is a Driver based out of Manchester Piccadilly and his sister and two sons also work for Avanti West Coast.

The train featured in the video, Pendolino 390001, departed Euston on the 12:10pm service and took four hours and 55 minutes to complete the journey at an average speed of 82mph.

It is hoped the videos will help comfort customers who have missed travelling with Avanti West Coast, as well as inspire those considering a career as a train driver.

Speaking about filming the footage, Dave said: “I’m so proud to say I’m a train driver. I really couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,

“It’s a real privilege to have been able to chat with Darran and share some insight in what it’s like to drive high speed trains. There can’t be many better office windows.”

The series is available to watch on Avanti West Coast’s website and will also be rolled out across the company’s social media channels.

Website URL: https://www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk/tales-from-the-tracks

Highlights from Tales of Track

While each leg of the journey has its own delights, there are some features of the West Coast route to look out for across the 8-part series:   

  • Watch out for a glimpse of the M1, as you sail past traffic at speed during the M1 and Kilsby tunnel instalment of the journey.   
  • Thrill in the brisk getaway of the Pendolino on its speedy 125 mile per hour journey (full tilt) through Rugby station.   
  • Listen to fascinating stories including the 1963 Great Train Robbery where £2.6 million was stolen to accounts of 2am journeys through the Lake District under a full moon with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountains.
  • And be sure to enjoy the final moments in the series, as the train draws into the beautiful architecture of Glasgow Central station, the final destination.

Ship to shore for Avanti West Coast’s new fleet of trains

  • First body shells for Avanti West Coast’s new trains arrive in the UK
  • Assembly work will start in earnest at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory later in the year
  • Trains due to enter service on the West Coast Main Line in 2022

The first nine body shells that will become Avanti West Coast’s new fleet of Hitachi trains have landed in the UK.

Antoine de Saint Exupery docked

The more spacious, comfortable, and greener models made by Hitachi Rail are due to enter service on the West Coast Main Line in 2022. They will replace the current diesel-powered Super Voyagers and serve the West Midlands, North Wales and Liverpool.

Class 805 aerial unload dock shot

The aluminium shells landed in the UK this week by sea at Southampton docks from Hitachi Rail’s Kasado factory in Japan, ahead of the train building work that will start at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant later this year.

Class 805 aerial unload

When completed, the fleet will comprise of 13 Class 805 Bi-Mode trains and 10 Class 807 Electric trains. Each Bi-Mode train comprises five carriages. The Electric trains will have seven.

Class 805 Bodyshells – boat hull

While initial empty body shells of the Bi-Mode fleet will be sent from Japan, the Avanti West Coast order marks an important change in Hitachi’s train building approach. 56 body shells will be fully welded together in the North East, marking an exciting new chapter for Hitachi’s factory, where £8.5million is being invested to allow the full build of trains to take place in the UK. The final assembly, where all components and electrics are fitted, of the entire fleet will take place at the Newton Aycliffe facility.

Class 805 dockside departure

“Our new trains are really going to make a difference and it’s very exciting,” explained Liam Hockings, Senior Project Manager, New Trains for Avanti West Coast. “Together with our partners Hitachi Rail and Rock Rail West Coast, we will be looking to raise the bar for our customers on the West Coast Main Line route.”

Class 805 dockside on lorry

Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments, is financing the trains and will be leasing them to Avanti West Coast.

Southampton Docks – Leading vehicle