Andy Burnham has urged the Transport Secretary to make Avanti West Coast run more trains to Manchester or terminate the firm’s contract.
In a letter to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the mayor of Greater Manchester said he wants Avanti to run at least two services between Manchester and London per hour by the end of the month – or have their contract removed altogether.
The Department for Transport has today placed the train firm on a short-term contract to challenge it to deliver the urgent increase in services required.
Back in August, the train company announced it would be reducing its services between Manchester and the capital to just one per hour as a result of ‘unofficial strike action’ by ASLEF members.
And over the last three weeks, an average of 10% of Avanti West Coast services between Manchester and London were either cancelled or significantly late.
Over this same three-week time period, over a quarter of services (27%) have failed to arrive on time, according to Granada Reports.
Yet while Avanti has said it plans to return to an increased timetable by December 11th, Burnham said it should happen sooner, and is calling for two trains per hour by the end of October, and three trains by December.
In his letter, Burnham wrote: “Unless this happens and is clearly communicated, train travel between our most important economic regions will continue to be chaotic, forcing people into their cars or into abandoning plans to travel entirely.
“These dreadful conditions would be unacceptable at any time but are particularly so now given the wholesale collapse of the timetable, something no other train company is experiencing at anything like this scale.
“Passengers face other challenges too. Tickets are still only being released a few days in advance, making planning for individuals and businesses impossible.
“Without this commitment, I will be unable to support a new contract for Avanti.”
In response, a spokesperson for Avanti West Coast said: “We are already delivering on our commitment to increase the number of services we are running between Manchester and London, with three or four trains an hour departing Manchester Piccadilly at the key times of the day.
“We remain focused on providing a reliable train service for our customers and restoring a full timetable of three trains an hour all day between London and Manchester, in December.
“Our revised timetable, with no reliance on overtime, is also proving more reliable – in the last week, we have run 300 trains between London and Manchester, with approximately one in thirty of them cancelled, mainly because of short-notice sickness.
“That compares with one out of thirteen trains cancelled back in mid-July.
“Nevertheless, we know that at the moment we’re not delivering the service our customers rightly expect and we apologise for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this is causing.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”
Next announces closure of several stores in blow to high street
The store locations have not yet been revealed
Bosses at Next have announced it is to close 11 stores by the end of the year in the latest blow to the high street.
The retail giant said of the 11 stores set to close: six are not expected to hit their targets, two are down to their locations not being developed, and three are due to agreements not being reached with their current landlords.
However, the names and locations of the 11 stores have not yet been released. The news comes after the company closed its huge store inside Westfield Stratford City, in London.
In a statement, Next Trading said: “We expect to close 11 mainline stores this year.
“Six closures are in locations where we forecast that the store would not achieve our target margin on almost any terms; two closures are due to the site being redeveloped; three further closures are as a result of being unable to agree acceptable new terms with landlords.
“This last category includes one large store where the length of the lease proposed by the landlord, on a high fixed rent charge, was not something we could agree to.”
Since the start of the year, a number of high street chains have announced closures across the UK, including New Look, Boots, Asda Living, Wilko and Iceland.
Some of the closures have been down to a decrease in sales, as more and more households rein in their spending during the cost-of-living crisis. Others were simply down to business decisions.
Boots revealed this year that it plans to shut 300 of its stores while Sainsbury’s, the owner of Lloyds Pharmacy, shared that it will shut its pharmacy sites located within its supermarkets.
Homeware brand Habitat announced it will be closing its last three remaining stand-alone sites while its owner, Sainsbury’s, confirmed its customers were increasingly making purchases online rather than in-store.
Elsewhere, frozen foods supermarket Iceland has closed 11 of its sites though it has not made any announcements to confirm the closures.
Wilko announced they had fallen into administration last month, and had around 400 stores with 12,500 staff before the company collapsed.
Wilko administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers tried to find a buyer for the company, but all deals fell through and it now has dates for 280 of its stores to close by early October, resulting in around 900 job losses.
The remaining 120 Wilko store closures and dates are yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, its rival stores B&M and Poundland have taken on a number of Wilko’s site to rebrand as their own. B&M has snapped up 51 sites and Poundland 71. The deals have not automatically saved Wilko staff working at these sites from job losses, though Poundland has said it will prioritise Wilko staff for job interviews.
Another competitor, The Range has also stepped in and bought the Wilko brand, website and intellectual property. This means it can now sell Wilko products within its stores but does not include any of its physical sites.
Wetherspoons to close 11 more pubs across the country with 33 already gone
Is your local Spoons up for sale?
After 33 closures already this year, Spoons have announced 11 more sites are to call last orders too.
The newest list of closures will affect a number of areas across the country including Todmorden, Moreton and Doncaster.
The budget pub chain previously announced it would be putting some of its pubs up for sale – that were in nearby locations to another existing site – due to the pressure of rising costs and inflation.
But punters don’t need to panic just yet, as the pubs won’t close until they have been sold.
Despite the closures Spoons has also opened branches, including The Square Peg in Birmingham and The Lord Palmerston in Southsea – after undergoing major refurbishments. The chain is also redeveloping pubs in Wakefield, central Cardiff and Glasgow, to the tune of around £8 million.
Wetherspoons currently boasts around 822 branches across the UK and recently announced its busiest-ever Saturday was during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
The 11 Wetherspoons pubs now up for sale:
- The Pontlottyn, Abertillery
- The Ivor Davies, Cardiff
- Spa Lane Vaults, Chesterfield
- The Gate House, Doncaster
- The Market Cross, Holywell
- The Regent, Kirkby in Ashfield
- The Mockbeggar Hall, Moreton
- The Hain Line, St Ives
- The Sir Norman Rae, Shipley
- The Sir Daniel Arms, Swindon
- The White Hart, Todmorden
These are just the Wetherspoon locations recently announced to be closing by the chain, but there are dozens more that have already closed this year.
The list of Wetherspoon locations that have closed are:
- The John Masefield, New Ferry
- Angel, Islington
- The Silkstone Inn, Barnsley
- The Billiard Hall, West Bromwich
- Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, Southampton
- The Colombia Press, Watford
- The Malthouse, Willenhall
- The John Masefield, New Ferry
- Thomas Leaper, Derby
- Cliftonville, Hove
- Tollgate, Harringay
- Last Post, Loughton
- Harvest Moon, Orpington
- Alexander Bain, Wick
- Chapel an Gansblydhen, Bodmin
- Moon on the Square, Basildon
- Coal Orchard, Taunton
- Running Horse, Airside Doncaster Airport
- Wild Rose, Bootle
- Edmund Halley, Lee Green
- The Willow Grove, Southport
- Postal Order, Worcester
- North and South Wales Bank, Wrexham
- The Sir John Stirling Maxwell, Glasgow
- The Knight’s Templar, London
- Christopher Creeke, Bournemouth
- The Water House, Durham
- The Widow Frost, Mansfield
- The Worlds Inn, Romford
- Hudson Bay, Forest Gate
- The Saltoun Inn, Fraserburgh
- The Bankers Draft, Eltham, London
- The Sir John Arderne, Newark
Police issue update in search for missing grandad, 81, from Oldham
Officers are supporting Ronald’s family while they continue the search
Greater Manchester Police have issued an update on Ronald Webster, 81, who went missing from Oldham last Thursday.
The news comes after Ronald’s grandchildren made an appeal to the public asking for help to find their beloved grandad and to ‘keep him safe’ until they, or the police can get there.
It was believed the last sightings of the grandfather-of-five were at 10.52 am on Walkers Road, in Limeside, Oldham and again at 3.45pm as he got off the 184 at Huddersfield Bus Station, on September 14th.
However, police have confirmed a new sighting of the pensioner, known by loved ones as ‘Ronnie’, just minutes later at 3.53pm, as he entered Huddersfield Train Station.
It is believed he may have links to the Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough areas, although officers have said they are ‘not ruling out that he may have travelled elsewhere’.
Ronald’s family shared that he had recently undergone a triple heart bypass and had medication for his heart and for epilepsy, but that he had not taken any of his medicine with him when he went missing.
His grandchildren said that this is the first time he has not come home.
At the time of his disappearance, Ronald was wearing a blue and black coat with grey trousers.
He is described as 4’11 ins with grey hair around the sides, bald on top, and uses a walking stick.
In an update, a spokesperson for GMP said: “Since Ronald was reported missing, officers have been working closely with his loved ones to understand where he might have travelled to.
“It is believed he may have links to Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough, although officers are not ruling out that he may have travelled elsewhere.
“Whilst officers are continuing to review CCTV from locations of significance, they are also working with colleagues from other forces to ensure everyone is on the lookout for Ronald so we can help him return to his family safe and well.”
Anyone with information about Ronald’s whereabouts should call 101 quoting 1013 of 16/09/2023.