Britain hands troubled train operator Avanti short term contract

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Britain granted train operator Avanti West Coast a short term contract to continue to run services between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh, giving the firm six months to improve after it cut services in August.

The contract award came despite the government saying past performance from Avanti had been unacceptable. The company is majority owned by London-listed FirstGroup alongside minority partner Italy state-owned Trenitalia.

New drivers are starting to join which should allow Avanti to add more trains per day, Britain's Department for Transport said in a statement on Friday.

"We have agreed a six-month extension to Avanti to assess whether it is capable of running this crucial route to a standard passengers deserve and expect," Transport Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

Avanti in August angered passengers and politicians when it cut the number of trains it ran between London and Manchester by a third in August due to driver shortages.

FirstGroup said the contract extension to the end of March 2023 was broadly under the same terms and conditions as before and that discussions were ongoing over the longer-term contract. (Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by William James)