Failing West Coast Main Line operator lambasted at transport conference

Henri Murison

The much criticised West Coast Main Line operator was eviscerated by senior business and transport figures over its running of the franchise at a major transport conference in Liverpool yesterday (February 23).

The Northern Transport Summit 2023 brought together industry, business and political heavyweights to examine the state of the sector at Liverpool’s Maritime Museum in an all day conference.

One of its sponsors, West Coast Partnership, controls the franchise on the West Coast Main Line which has been subject to massive delays and cancellations by operator Avanti West Coast.

During one session one of the West Coast Partnership team asked how the industry can get better at rebuilding public confidence and trust in public transport.

Responding, Northern Powerhouse Partnership chair, Henri Murison, said: “You have got a lot to answer for in asking that question.

“The fundamental point is, if you want people to use the public transport system it does need to be reliable.

“Fundamentally, the disjointed relationship between the Department for Transport and your organisations and the workforce has led to a terrible situation which has disproportionately affected northern cities.

“And I do not care whether or not every argument that Andy (Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham) makes is true in exact detail about quite how terrible it has been, Andy and the northern mayors have been right.

“It has been an economic disaster that we have had these problems for the last few months and I do think, having sponsored this event, you should be really clear to apologise for what you have done to the northern economy before you start talking about how we do a repair job.

“Before the repair job, we need the apologies first, please.”

North West Business Leadership Team CEO, and fellow panellist, Emma Degg, said problems with the franchise are costing her members and the region millions of pounds: “I have to tell you, in 10 years of sitting on panels like this I have never stood on a platform and criticised anything, because I don’t see the point.

“But on the West Coast Main Line there are so many of my businesses losing their money and this would not happen in London and the South East, full stop.

“And I am telling you, we are losing millions of pounds of investment.”