FirstGroup agrees West Coast rail extension

Aberdeen-headquartered transport firm FirstGroup plc said it has agreed with the UK Department for Transport (DfT) to extend the current arrangements for the West Coast Partnership (WCP) rail contract.

“The current arrangements for WCP were due to expire on 31 March 2023 and are now extended to 15 October 2023 under broadly the same terms and conditions,” said FirstGroup.

“The WCP rail contract comprises the operation of Avanti West Coast and acting as shadow operator to the HS2 programme.

“Discussions are ongoing with DfT regarding the longer-term National Rail Contract for WCP.

“The group also announces that Andy Mellors has been appointed Managing Director of Avanti with immediate effect.

“Andy previously held senior roles at Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and most recently as Managing Director of the group’s non-franchised rail businesses.

“Andy takes over from Steve Montgomery, First Rail Managing Director who has been acting Managing Director of Avanti since September 2022.”

FirstGroup CEO Graham Sutherland said: “We are working closely with government and our partners across the industry to deliver a successful railway for our customers and communities.

“Performance at Avanti is steadily improving and since the introduction of the new timetable in mid-December, the number of services has increased by more than 40% compared to last summer, with more seats and better frequencies.

“Today’s agreement allows our team to continue their focus on delivering their robust plans to continue enhancing services for our customers, including further progress on our train upgrade and refurbishment programme.”