Train operators fail to deliver summer timetable change


EMUs have started running to Blackpool, although initially confined to a single shuttle to and from Preston while driver training continued. No. 319431 is pictured at Poulton-le-Fylde on May 21 with the 12.32 Blackpool North to Preston. Paul Bickerdyke


BOTH Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Arriva Trains Northern (ATN) have been heavily criticised since the May 20 timetable change as they have been unable to deliver the promised new services, with hundreds of services cancelled each day.
Both operators have suffered from Network Rail project overruns, which have prevented the necessary driver training for the new pattern of services. As a result, Northern introduced an emergency timetable from June 4 that saw the temporary cancellation of 165 services each day, including all trains on the Windermere branch.
The new timetable saw GTR start running through services from Peterborough and Cambridge on the Great Northern route through the Thameslink core to Gatwick Airport, Horsham and Brighton. Prior to the
May 20 change, some services had been using the new route through the Canal tunnels – where tracks leave the GN formation between Copenhagen and Gasworks tunnels on the approach to King’s Cross – to allow driver training to take place. The first of these trains did not run until February and, with a minimum of 12 weeks’ route learning needed, only nine of the 90 drivers based at Peterborough had completed training by the start of the new timetable. The situation at Horsham was even worse with fewer trained drivers.
An emergency timetable was implemented from May 21 that concentrated the available resources on providing peak hour services, but this proved unsuccessful with up to 50% of trains from the revised schedule being cancelled. Long gaps in the service were experienced at intermediate stations on both the Great Northern and Southern routes, with passengers being stranded at stations for as long as two hours and late-night services being cancelled altogether.
The plan had been for crew relief to be made at the likes of Blackfriars and Finsbury Park, but long delays resulted as service cancellations meant that drivers were not on hand for an immediate change over.

Read more in the July issue of Rail Express, on sale June 15.

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