THE next 48 hours are set to be critical for the railway industry, as many timetables change.
Managers will be anxious not to repeat the events of May 2018, when new timetables on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern proved to be unworkable, for different reasons, and months of disruption followed.
This time there is a major focus on Great Western Railway, where three out of four journeys have been retimed in the biggest revision on the network since 1976. Journeys will be faster in many cases, with more trains on some routes. GWR has also handed over the stopping services between London Paddington and Reading to TfL Rail, as part of the changeover to Crossrail and the future Elizabeth Line.
Other operators with significant changes include CrossCountry, which is changing the times of some trains in the Midlands and accelerating the speed of many services. East Midlands Railway is running more trains between Kettering and Corby, as well as new winter services to Skegness and Cleethorpes. Great Northern has made some changes to its Moorgate services, to take advantage of the new trains from the next timetable revisions in May.
Greater Anglia is providing new hourly direct services between Stansted Airport and Norwich, via Cambridge and Cambridge North, and London Northwestern Railway is strengthening some services as well as providing new direct Sunday trains between Liverpool Lime Street and London Euston. Many departure times are changing at Bletchley, including connection times with the Bedford branch.
LNER is extending its Azuma network with new services between London and Harrogate, and some London to Newcastle services will continue to Edinburgh.
There are many changes on Northern, including an extension of Leeds–Selby services to connect Halifax and Hull, while an hourly service will be restored between Manchester Victoria and Kirkby via Wigan. There are also two more return services each day between Middlesbrough and Whitby, and a new station has opened at Warrington West. In Scotland, a new station is due to open tomorrow at Robroyston, between Stepps and Springburn on the Edinburgh–Cumbernauld–Glasgow line.
There are some new timings on Thameslink, and trains will be running for the first time on Saturdays between Gatwick Airport and stations to Peterborough. However, the Thameslink service between Cambridge and Cambridge North will be withdrawn to release a path for a new direct Greater Anglia service between Cambridge North and London Liverpool Street.
TransPennine Express is also making some changes, but a temporary timetable will apply from 15 December to 6 January.
Operators who are not making any significant changes this time round are Avanti West Coast, c2c, Gatwick Express, Heathrow Express and Merseyrail.
Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘This time around passengers need the rail industry to deliver a smooth set of timetable improvements – so they can reliably use both new and existing services.
‘Many passengers should have a greater choice of services with more seats as a result of these changes. However, there will also be some who lose out with fewer or slower services.
‘Train companies must have plenty of visible staff on hand to guide passengers, to answer questions on how these changes will affect them, and to explain what travel choices they have.’