Commuters braced as railway timetables change

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The new National Rail summer timetable has come into effect, with 1,000 new train services being introduced across Great Britain.

The operators and infrastructure firm Network Rail say they have learned the lessons of last summer’s disruption.

Then, a more extensive shake-up led to weeks of chaos on the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern networks.

Train operators say they will monitor the latest changes carefully and respond quickly to any problems.

‘Contingency plans’

“The railway has a long way to go to win back passenger confidence,” said Darren Shirley, chief executive of pressure group Campaign for Better Transport.

“But we hope that the lessons of last year have been learnt and the introduction of the new timetable… will improve people’s perceptions of the railways, rather than further damaging them.

“In the event that things do go wrong, we would expect the rail industry to have a robust contingency plan so that passengers aren’t left stranded again.”

And Anthony Smith, boss of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said Monday morning’s commute would provide a major test.

“Passengers waiting on platforms just want the trains to run on time… they have paid for a service, and want the service to be reliable,” he said.

‘Failure’

The timetable changes in May 2018 led to weeks of disruption to large parts of the network,

The number of trains cancelled each day by GTR and Northern hit up to 470 and 310 respectively.

GTR was fined £5m by the rail regulator over its poor communication during an eight-week period of upheaval.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found that the company “failed to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information” to passengers.

‘Nobody took charge’

Among operators adding extra services are South Western Railway, GTR, Northern, Scotrail and Transport for Wales.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said train companies and Network Rail have only made changes where there is a “high confidence” infrastructure, rolling stock and staffing plans are ready.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Introducing 1,000 more services a week to meet demand on a congested network poses a significant challenge but we are working together to ensure improvements are introduced with the absolute minimum of disruption.”

Following the chaos of a year ago, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was criticised after an ORR investigation found there was a “lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities”, and that “nobody took charge”.

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