The Daily Telegraph

Charter trains for mourners from North

- By Oliver Gill chief business correspond­ent

THE Government is poised to step in and charter trains for the first time since the days of British Rail to enable thousands of well-wishers from the North to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth.

Whitehall officials were last night putting the final touches to a plan to charter a daily service to London, following a backlash against the company that runs train services on the west coast mainline.

And in a nod to British Rail, the service will boast carriages with old-fashioned slam-doors, according to industry sources. For the first time in its history, Network Rail, the public body that owns stations, tracks and signal boxes, will be responsibl­e for chartering the service from Cairnforth-based specialist West Coast Railways (WCR).

The interventi­on comes after The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this week that Avanti, the crisis-hit west coast train operator, was struggling to timetable extra train services for the weekend amid a long-running row with unions. The disclosure prompted Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, to voice “serious concerns about the ability of Avanti West Coast to support people wishing to travel between the North West and London both over the coming days to pay their respects to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”.

Industry sources said that although Avanti has agreed with one specialist train company – Locomotive Services Limited – to run one extra daily service before the funeral, talks with WCR collapsed, and Network Rail stepped in.

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