Rail companies to introduce temporary timetables to give customers more certainty

The rail industry has pledged to work together to get services back on track as quickly as possible, giving customers the greater certainty they need over what trains will run, following disruption resulting from the biggest timetable change in a generation to accommodate more and faster trains

Today, Northern has published a temporary timetable which will enable it to start to stabilise service levels over the next few weeks and, importantly, start to reduce the number of last-minute cancellations. GTR will also be introducing a temporary timetable on Great Northern and Thameslink as soon as possible. Next week, GTR has plans to provide a more consistent level of service to allow passengers to plan their journeys with greater confidence.

The biggest timetable change in a generation took place on 20 May. This was part of delivering the rail industry’s plan to add 6,400 extra services a week and 7,000 new carriages by 2021, using new and upgraded track across the country to give customers a better service, better connect communities and secure £85bn of additional economic benefits.

While nationwide, more than eight out of 10 services have arrived as planned since the new timetable was introduced, customers in some parts of the country have experienced unacceptable levels of disruption. Northern and GTR are taking decisive action to give greater certainty to passengers as quickly as possible.

To accommodate the extra services being introduced, six out of 10 services nationwide had to be retimed. The time of all GTR and most Northern services had to be changed. All of these new journeys needed to be individually approved by Network Rail to ensure the national rail network runs safely and smoothly. 

As a result of the sheer number of changes required and the late running of some engineering improvements, the process took longer than anticipated, approvals for service changes were delayed and some timetable requests were changed. This meant that train companies had much less time to prepare for the new timetable meaning specialist training required could not be completed in time for drivers to learn all the new routes, or operate different trains for operators to address all the logistical challenges.

While it will be some weeks before customers in the areas affected have the service improvements they were expecting in May, rail companies plan to run more services compared to before the change on 20th May. They will also be continuing to train drivers on new routes and timetables so that, in time, the full benefits for customers of the new timetable can be realised.

Passengers are advised to continue to check before they travel and, if they are delayed, to check with their operator to see whether they are due compensation.

Robert Nisbet, Regional Director of the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“We understand that rail customers quite rightly want a service they can rely on and in some parts of the country that has not been the case and we are sorry for that. The companies involved have plans to get services back on track as quickly as possible and while things will improve in the coming days, giving passengers greater certainty, it will be some time before the full benefits of the timetable are felt.

“The industry is determined to deliver its plan to change and improve Britain’s railway for customers, communities and the economy and will learn the lessons to ensure that as we transform the network, people continue to get the level of service they deserve.”

The industry has also committed to learn the lessons from what went wrong with introducing the new timetable to ensure future changes do not cause such disruption. Rail timetables are normally confirmed 12 weeks ahead of time but this was not the case for the May timetable change and the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators, has begun a review into why this happened.

Charles Horton, CEO, GTR, said:

“May’s new timetable was part of the biggest change to services for decades introducing 400 extra services and providing longer trains to address the doubling of passengers on our network in just 16 years.

“We always said that it would be challenging – but we are very sorry for the significant disruption being experienced by passengers and apologise sincerely. Delayed approval of the timetable led to an unexpected need to substantially adjust our plans and resources in an unexpectedly short time-frame. 

“We fully understand that passengers want more certainty and next week will make changes to bring greater consistency services with fewer unplanned cancellations, allowing passengers to arrange their journeys with greater confidence. We are also working with industry colleagues to introduce further changes that will progressively deliver improvement.” 

David Brown, Managing Director, Northern, said:

“I’d like to apologies for this unacceptable situation and for the disruption and inconvenience many passengers have faced. We’re truly sorry for this and we’re working hard with the Network Rail team to fix this.

“To deliver a more robust and stable service we are introducing an interim train timetable, effective from Monday 4 June until the end of July. This interim timetable will enable us to start to stabilise service levels over the next few weeks and, importantly, start to reduce the number of last-minute train cancellations.”

Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive said:

“There is no doubt that the May timetable was finalised significantly later than normal for reasons that were both within and without our control. The consequences of that have been particularly hard for both Northern and GTR to absorb. 

“The industry has let down its passengers by failing to deliver the new services offered by the new timetable; a timetable that ultimately will deliver thousands of new services for the benefit of passengers, both far and wide.  It has not been good enough and we know it.  That is why we are working together across the industry to build a recovery plan that people can rely on and then more gradually introduce the benefits and new services everyone needs.”

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