The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has confirmed the industry’s new summer 2019 timetable, which will add 1,000 extra services per week in a bid to ease congestion.
The timetable, which goes into effect from 19 May, is on a similar scale to the shake-up last year that caused severe disruption and weeks of chaos, especially for passengers on franchises run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern.
RDG admitted putting 1,000 extra services presented “a significant challenge”, but that the industry had “learned the lessons” from last year’s fiasco. It says “hundreds of rail planners and engineers have been working hard over many months to implement these improvements effectively”.
It claims the industry has “high confidence” that it will be more prepared for the change than it was last year, with infrastructure, staffing plans and new trains ready for the switch.
However, BBC News reported on Thursday that it had learned Northern’s six-carriage trains into and out of Leeds station – one of the busiest in the North of England – were being delayed until late 2021 because the longer platforms needed to accommodate longer trains at the station are not ready. They were due to go into service on the busiest routes a peak times this December.
RDG’s comments contradict a warning issued by MPs last month that passengers could face another ‘difficult year’ as they raised concerns that the rail industry hadn’t learned enough from past mistakes.
RDG says that while a “small impact on punctuality” can be expected by the introduction of a new timetable, the industry will “continue to work together over the coming months” to develop contingency plans if disruption does occur.
Paul Plummer, RDG’s chief executive, said that while introducing thousands of new services in the coming years will make journeys “better”, “improving the railway for tomorrow cannot come at the expense of running a reliable railway today”.
He continued: “The scale of our ambition to improve means that this is a significant challenge and while there may be some teething problems, train operators and Network Rail have worked together to carefully assess where new services can be introduced without impacting reliability.”
Some of the biggest changes include more peak services in and out of London on South Western Railway and direct services between Chester and Leeds, as well as faster trains between Middlesbrough and Newcastle for Northern rail passengers.
The announcement comes amidst the Williams Review, which aims to offer the government recommendations for the future of the UK’s railways. The inquiry was ordered after last summer’s chaos and during that time the Office of Rail and Road blamed a ‘lack of accountability’ for the disruption.