Avanti West Coast has suspended ticket sales and reduced Manchester to London trains to just one an hour as it limits its timetable due to an "unofficial strike". It will run as few as four trains per hour from Sunday, the train operator has confirmed.
Services between London Euston and Manchester appear to be the worst affected by the cut, with train frequencies reduced from three per hour to just one. The limited timetable will be in place "until further notice", Avanti West Coast said.
The company has also suspended ticket sales for travel from Sunday until September 11 while the new schedule is finalised to minimise the number of people disrupted. Tickets for the following weeks will be released on a rolling, weekly basis.
In a letter to the rail industry, seen by the PA news agency, Avanti West Coast managing director Phil Whittingham wrote that the "current industrial relations climate" has resulted in "severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by Aslef members". He explained that the operator normally ran around 400 trains per week with drivers voluntarily working on their rest days - for extra pay - but that has "dropped suddenly to fewer than 50".
He went on: "The reduced timetable is being introduced to ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause."
Mr Whittingham urged rail unions to "engage in meaningful industry reform talks around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century". He added that the industry "remains open for talks at any time".
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