December upgrades postponed


THE upheaval caused by the extent of timetable changes in May, which even now have still not been fully implemented by Northern and the Govia Thameslink Railway, has brought about a decision to put off further major changes in December across eight franchised operators.
These include Great Western Railway, CrossCountry, TransPennine Express and South Western Railway. London’s new Elizabeth Line will also be affected, as services were due to start on the Great Western route after commissioning of the core central section.
The announcement made on July 9
has wide-ranging consequences as the franchises’ revenue assumptions, which were based on running more services, will be invalidated. This will result in the renegotiation of relevant franchise contracts.
The problem has highlighted the inability of the Network Rail System Operator function to provide sufficient train planning resources, although there has been an unprecedented ‘spike’ in demands from train operators to enhance services – in many cases due to franchise bid commitments. The decision to centralise planning activities also appears to have brought skill shortages after the closure of regional centres that previously responded
to timetable requirements.
The newly-created South Western Railway, a joint venture between First Group and the MTR Corporation that succeeded the long-running Stagecoach franchise in August 2017, is particularly hard hit. Its delivery plan included substantial timetable changes in December to provide more and longer trains, as well as improved journey times.
Postponement will interfere with planned rolling stock cascades, and impact on the introduction of re-engineered Class 442 units where additional services were planned to compensate for the reduced capacity offered by these trains.

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