Rail firms forced to abandon winter timetable changes

Sweeping rail timetable changes planned for December are to be abandoned as the industry seeks to avoid a repeat of the fiasco in May when tens of thousands of services did not run.

Train operating companies that had been expecting to add more services this winter will have their introduction deferred until 2019.

Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern, the operations of which descended into chaos due to a timetable switch, are among eight franchises that will leave their schedules unchanged.

The rest will implement only minor alterations, with rail companies prioritising a reliable service over additional trains.

Timetables are usually changed twice a year, but not to the extent of the radical overhaul in May, which was designed to add services after the completion of engineering work and arrival of new trains.

More Thameslink services were to be added to the timetable in December, but GTR – Britain’s biggest commuter franchise – has yet to deliver anything like the promised May schedule due to a shortage of trained drivers on routes in and out of London. A reduced, interim timetable will start next week, with a view to running the full May timetable by December.

Northern, which has achieved a more stable service after cutting 6% of its timetable, also expects to be running the May timetable in full later this year.

The other networks with timetables that will remain unaltered include Great Western Railway, which had expected to run more trains after electrification work, and ones that intersect with Thameslink and Northern.

The Network Rail chairman, Sir Peter Hendy, said: “The railway industry has taken a long, hard look at its plans for the next timetable change in December and, taking into account recent painful lessons, the industry has scaled back its ambition and tempered it with a more cautious, phased approach to introducing the new timetable.

 

 

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