Rail industry learning lessons as new Winter timetable introduced this weekend

Winter timetable change follows introduction of new process to improve how the rail industry works together to assess readiness for new timetables, learning the lessons from May’s disruption.

  • Latest timetable change will help to deliver rail industry’s plan to improve journeys
  • Focus is on better long-term reliability and, in places, adding more and faster services
  • While rail industry has prepared thoroughly, it is still advising people to check before they travel as many train times will have changed and there is the potential for some disruption as the new timetable beds-in.

The rail industry is preparing to introduce its winter timetables this weekend, as it learns the lessons from May’s disruption. This follows the rail regulator setting out the improvements made by the industry to the timetable process since the summer and making recommendations for further change.

Under a new approach to prepare for December’s timetable changes, a cross-industry assurance team has taken a whole-picture view of the industry’s readiness. This has led to the industry collectively deciding that the scale of changes this December should be smaller than those seen earlier this year.

The new winter timetable will focus on improving reliability in the long-term and, where infrastructure, staffing plans and new trains are expected to be ready, introducing new services.

From Monday 10th December, for example, passengers on Thameslink and Great Northern will benefit from 170 additional weekday services. In Scotland, the fastest journey time between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street will now be reduced to 42 minutes and there will be more seats through the introduction of Class 385 electric trains.

In many areas existing timetables are largely being maintained with small changes to improve reliability. TransPennine Express, for example, is splitting Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds services to ensure there is greater reliability overall. This will enable trains to overtake one another during times of disruption.

While the rail industry has prepared thoroughly for the timetable change, customers are being urged to check before they travel next week as some train times will have changed. As is normal following the introduction of new timetables, there may also be some impact on punctuality as the new timetable beds-in. This is over and above the usual day-to-day operational issues that can cause delays.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the railway, said:

“Over the next few years, we are committed to delivering a step change in the quality and reliability of rail services through huge investment in infrastructure so that thousands of extra services can run.

“We know that people in some areas might be concerned about another timetable change but as the Glaister Review acknowledges the rail industry has worked together to start learning the lessons from May.

“As with the introduction of any new timetable, there may be some pockets of disruption as people get used to new journeys and train times, so we advise people to check before travelling next week.”

The railway is seeing the biggest investment since the Victorian era which will see train operating companies introduce 7,000 new carriages and hundreds of fully refurbished trains, supporting 6,400 extra services a week by 2021.

Every year, the national timetable is routinely changed twice – for the summer (in May) and for the winter (in December) to allow services to adapt for seasonal variations and to enable new services to be introduced to take advantage of investment in the infrastructure and in new trains.


Notes to editors:

  • The industry has developed a structure to assess the viability of future timetable changes – starting with December 2018. There is a project management office called the Industry Timetabling Assurance PMO (Programme Management Office) which is being led by Network Rail, working jointly with all the train operators, with the line of accountability leading to the CEO of Network Rail and the RDG Board. The Timetabling Assurance PMO reports to operational leaders from across the train operating companies and is taking a view across the industry to more thoroughly assess the viability of timetables. It has already made a series of recommendations to the Department for Transport that have led to the December 2018 timetable being adjusted to ensure customers get a more reliable and stable timetable.
  • Members of the Industry Timetabling Assurance PMO have undertaken detailed December 2018 readiness reviews with each operator.
  • As part of its plans for Control Period 6 (2019/20 – 2023/24) Network Rail plans to increase by almost 90 per cent to £270m funding for the System Operator, the division responsible for timetables and long-term planning. This will make timetable production more effective and provide better information much earlier in the process so that franchise specifications are built on robust assumptions around capacity.
  • The rail industry has been calling for a root and branch review of the whole railway system. That’s why we welcomed the announcement by the Government of the independently chaired rail review. This review must address recommendations from the ORR and the Transport Select Committee Review to ensure that there is clear accountability around the timetable.
  • Passengers are advised to plan ahead and check before they travel. Customers can do this through checking with their train company or National Rail Enquiries website.

Rail Delivery Group
Contact: 020 7841 8020


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