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Avanti West Coast caught joking that taxpayer funding is ‘free money’

Avanti West Coast described taxpayer funding as ‘free money’ during an internal meeting with managers (PA Wire)
Avanti West Coast described taxpayer funding as ‘free money’ during an internal meeting with managers (PA Wire)

Avanti West Coast have been criticised after managers described taxpayer funding as “free money” during an internal presentation.

The train operator apologised after displaying the message on a slide in a meeting.

The meeting took place on January 12 and was attended by managing director Andy Mellors, according to Novara Media.

It published an image showing a slide with the title: “Roll-up, roll-up get your free money here!”.

Another slide explained how train operators are paid bonuses by the Government even if services are not run completely to schedule, under the service quality regime (SQR).

This included the statement: “Sound too good to be true? Well on this occasion – it isn’t – it’s the absolute truth!”

Avanti’s operating contract was renewed by the Department for Transport last September for up to nine years despite issues with delays and cancellations.

Last year, transport minister Jesse Norman said that Avanti would need to “woo” customers back after “disastrous underperformance” in 2022.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told Novara Media: “Avanti is one of the worst rail companies in terms of performance and how it treats rail staff.

“For senior management to produce a PowerPoint slide bragging about the Government paying them public money is a disgrace.

“The Government has the mandate over Avanti and should never have given them a long-term nine-year contract award.

“The fact that the company feels emboldened to boast that they get ‘free money’ is down to the ridiculous system of rail ownership in this country.

“Ultimately profit driven companies who receive huge public subsidies have failed to deliver for railway workers and passengers alike. And that’s why we need public ownership of the entire network.”

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “This does not represent Avanti West Coast’s view of the service quality regime and was an isolated incident.

“These slides were an attempt to explain how the SQR works to some of our colleagues, but the language used in this presentation was regrettable and we apologise for this.

“The service quality regime is a robust and independent audit which we take very seriously.

“It has been demonstrated to hold us to account to drive up standards as we strive to continually improve our customer service.”