Avanti West Coast Pendolino Passenger Train at Crewe Railway Station, via Istock

Doubt remains whether new timetables can resolve passenger service failings

Major timetable changes being introduced this Sunday will see Avanti West Coast (AWC) return to three trains an hour on its London-Manchester route, accompanied by and TransPennine Express (TPE) increasing Manchester-Scotland services.

These changes will be made on AWC, TPE and Northern services catering for passengers across the North of England and will come alongside improvements to services linking region to the capital and Scotland. TPE will extend the Cleethorpes-Manchester service to and from Liverpool and AWC offer more direct services between London and North Wales via Chester.

TPE's customer service and operations director Kathryn O'Brien said the changes were "designed to give our customers improved connectivity"

"We have had to make some adjustments to existing services, and we need all customers to make themselves familiar with the timetables and to check carefully before travelling," she added.

Though this sounds great on the surface, there are existing concerns whether the failures to resolve staffing issues will mean future cancellations in the coming months, continuing the recent trend of mass disruptions.

With a vast amount of rail workers still refusing to volunteer for shifts on their rest days, the ongoing industrial action accompanied by the existing training backlogs for new staff will likely lead to repetition of the current reliability issues with passenger services.

An RDG representative said the new timetable was "an opportunity to provide more certainty for passengers with a focus on improving punctuality and reliability".

"This will also be a chance for operators to introduce more trains and to make existing services much more robust for passengers," they added.

After the recent scheduling cuts on AWC services in August to limit the short-notice cancellations, the operator is attempting a 40% increase that will see an overall of 264 services per day. This increase will supply more reliability for services throughout Manchester, spacing them out into more regular time slots, however Northern have warned that “a small number of trains” may still be temporarily cancelled up to 48 hours before the scheduled day as resources are adjusted to accommodate the new timetable.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive Henri Murison has outlined concerns that these new timetables would not result in improved performances, saying that a “rest-day working agreement” was requisite to speed up the necessary training processes for new drivers, which was the “root cause of this chaos on our railway.”

Addressing concerns with TPE relating to this backlog in training, Mr Murison expressed that the operator “"will not have enough fully trained drivers ready when the timetable change comes into effect... meaning we're likely to see continued disruption".

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