Request for Avanti passengers to scale 2-metre barbed wire fence to exit station | West Coast Main Line

One of Britain’s worst-performing train operators has launched an investigation after passengers had to climb over a 2-metre (7ft) barbed wire fence to leave a station when staff unlocked it early.

The Avanti West Coast train from London was 100 minutes late arriving at Oxenholme on Tuesday evening as staff had locked the station and left for the night, passengers said. Some resorted to climbing the fence in scenes described by the local MP, Tim Farron, as “an unacceptable farce”.

Avanti told the MP it took the incident “very seriously” and promised to investigate.

Several people on board the delayed 7.30pm from Euston said the train was running so late that they were initially told the service would not stop as planned at Oxenholme, the nearest station to the Lake District.

Not cool @AvantiWestCoast
London train arrived at Oxenholme station over 100 minutes late. The only way out of the station was to climb the locked gates! You couldn’t make it up#utterdisgrace#britishrailfail@timfarron please raise in parliament

— Diane Gilmore (@di_gilmore) August 16, 2022


Instead, passengers were told to stay in Penrith, where they could get a taxi for the hour-long drive back to Oxenholme.

But when the train reached Oxenholme, it stopped after all, leaving passengers on the platform of what turned out to be a closed station. Passengers said they believed station staff had been told the last service of the evening was not going to stop there and thought they could safely go home.

Farron said some passengers climbed the six-foot gates and fences around the station to get out. There was also concern that they would be forced to cross live tracks to find an alternative exit, he said.

The police were called and managed to locate a maintenance worker who had a key to the gates, allowing passengers to get out after midnight.

“This is just one more example of the failings of the Avanti,” Farron said. “We have seen a lot of cancellations of Avanti services, errors in the reservation systems and now a locked station. There are clearly systematic errors going on at Avanti, and we cannot let it go unchecked.

“We now have to ask the question whether Avanti is a suitable outfit to run a franchise. The Department of Transport should seriously consider removing the franchise from them.”

Avanti has recently reduced the number of trains between London Euston and Manchester from one every 20 minutes to one hourly, with the cuts in place “until further notice”, allowing tickets to be bought just a few days in advance.

After meeting Avanti on Wednesday, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, demanded that the firm be put into action when the full timetable would be restored. He also urged it to suspend first-class restrictions on London services to make more seats available in the booking system at an affordable price.

“The severe reduction of services at this time of year is seriously damaging to our economy. Avanti’s decision to take this action without any prior consultation or even notification shows a lack of respect for our city region and its residents,” Burnham said.

A spokesman for Avanti said: “We are continuing to investigate what happened at Oxenholme on Tuesday night.”

He said Avanti appreciated the opportunity to meet with Burnham and will “fully consider” his requests.

The firm says it reduced the timetable due to “the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages”.

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