Rail passengers using Avanti West Coast services on Saturday face more misery as the operator said it expects to make widespread cancellations.
The company – whose reliability recently sank to an all-time low – warned it will not have enough available staff to operate its timetable.
An alert to passengers stated: “Due to unseasonably high staff shortages, we are unfortunately expecting a large number of cancellations on Saturday 28th January.
“Trains are likely to be extremely busy, and passengers should check their journey online before coming to the station.”
It added: “We are sorry for the frustration and inconvenience this will cause.”
Passengers with a ticket for Saturday can travel on either Friday or Sunday instead when “more services will be running”, according to the operator.
Anyone who no longer wishes to travel can claim a fee-free refund.
The PA news agency understands the lack of available staff is being caused by more people than normal taking annual leave, and training that could not be postponed.
The situation has been exacerbated by strike days causing annual leave and training in recent months to be rescheduled.
Avanti West Coast runs trains on the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Glasgow Central, with branches to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh.
The operator – a joint venture between FirstGroup (70%) and Italian state operator Trenitalia (30%) – was given until April 1 by the Department for Transport to improve its services when it was awarded a short-term contract extension in October 2022.
Figures published this week show the company cancelled the equivalent of about one in five services during the four weeks to January 7.
The company said “performance has steadily improved” since then.
On Tuesday, rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road ordered Avanti West Coast to submit an improved recovery plan to stop releasing tickets just a few days ahead of travel.
Passengers wanting to book tickets for weekend travel this month have only been able to purchase tickets a few days in advance, leading to claims that many people are being denied cheaper tickets.
Avanti West Coast said the delay has been caused by the requirement to produce bespoke timetables – which happens in partnership with Network Rail – during engineering work.