Rail franchises operators & contracts

08.03.19

New May timetable announced as rail bosses insist ‘lessons learned’ following last year’s chaos

The rail industry has confirmed the new summer 2019 timetable, with 1,000 extra services added to relieve overcrowding as rail bosses say they “learned the lessons” of last year’s chaos.

A host of timetable adjustments are to come into effect from 19 May, a year on from the 2018 timetable chaos where passengers suffered months of cancellations and delays, with large parts of the network crippled in the north and south-east.

But the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said it had learned the lessons from last year’s disruptive summer timetable change, with a cross-industry task force carefully examining the railway’s preparedness across the country.

It said new services were only being introduced where there is “high confidence” that there will be the necessary infrastructure, staffing plans, and new trains ready.

An extra 1,000 services per week will be added in total, and the RDG say that 6,400 services will have been added between 2017 and 2020, reducing overcrowding and improving connectivity.

The changes will see South Western Railway offer more peak services in and out of London, and Northern will run more direct services between Chester and Leeds and faster services between Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, said: “Many parts of the country are set to benefit this summer from a better service, but where introducing improvements puts reliability at risk, we are rightly taking a more cautious approach.

“Improving the railway for tomorrow cannot come at the expense of running a reliable railway today.

“The scale of our ambition to improve means that this is a significant challenge and, while there may be some teething problems, train operators and Network Rail have worked together to carefully assess where new services can be introduced without impacting reliability.”

The changes are part of a wider long-term improvement plan to raise punctuality and reliability, and provide more frequent and new train services.

A scathing report from the ORR on the May 2018 timetable change blamed the chaos on Chris Grayling, Network Rail, and the DfT’s poor handling of the crisis, stating “no one took charge” when everything went wrong.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, commented: “Passengers will welcome new services, more choice, speeded up journeys, and increased frequencies.

“However, passengers need the timetable to be a work of fact, not fiction, so they will want reassurance the new services can be introduced and operated without a repeat of last year's timetable crisis.”

Image credit - Victoria Jones: PA Wire: PA Images

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