Railway timetable changes threaten further travel woe for passengers

An overhaul of rail timetables is threatening further disruption for rail passengers after the train chaos of last summer.

Train operators across the UK will introduce their summer timetables on Sunday, with at least 14 making schedule changes.

Among those making changes to services are Govia Thameslink Railway, Great Western, Northern, ScotRail and South Western.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has said the changes will enable the introduction of 1,000 extra services per week.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus has urged rail companies “pull out all the stops” to ensure next week’s change does not lead to a repeat of the chaos from last year’s summer, where timetable alterations massively backfired.

At least 3,000 new weekly trains were introduced, causing delays and cancellations as operators struggled to adapt.

Up to 780 trains a day were cancelled during in the height of the chaos between Northern and Govia Thameslink, which were worst hit.

The proposed changes this month are on a much smaller scale but Transport Focus said the changes to train times must deliver “more punctual and reliable services”.

Travellers are being advised to check departure times ahead of the changes.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Passengers want nothing less than a smooth set of timetable changes that deliver tangible improvements.

“They paid a hefty price a year ago for a poorly managed set of major timetable changes.

“To regain the confidence of passengers, the rail industry must pull out all the stops to ensure these improvements deliver more punctual and reliable services.”

The RDG insisted the industry has learned lessons from May 2018, adding that train companies and Network Rail have worked together to ensure changes are only being made where there is a “high confidence” that the necessary infrastructure, rolling stock and staffing plans are ready.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Train companies and Network Rail are focused on maintaining reliability as we deliver the step change in services people want and the country needs.

“We know that running more services cannot come at the expense of running a punctual railway.”

GTR chief executive Charles Horton announced his resignation in the wake of the disruption last year.

An investigation into the timetable changes by the Office of Rail and Road found there was a “lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities” and said “nobody took charge”.