Commuters warned of ‘teething problems’ with new rail timetable | UK news

Passengers face “teething problems” on the rail network when new timetables are introduced in May, the organisation that represents the industry has warned. However, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said that the introduction of more than 1,000 extra services will help to tackle overcrowding.

Last May there was chaos when Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – the parent company of Southern Rail, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern – and Northern overhauled their timetables with the aim of laying on hundreds of extra trains a day.

The companies were plunged into disarray from day one, with GTR cancelling 470 trains a day and Northern 310. Commuters in the south-east and the north faced overcrowded trains and cancelled services throughout the summer.

The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, said last May that “chaos on the north’s rail network has been so extreme and so prolonged that, as a company, Northern have lost the benefit of the doubt.”

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, declined to take personal responsibility for the disruption, saying that “a system problem” had been the primary cause.

Paul Plummer, the chief executive of the RDG, said the new timetable posed a “significant challenge” but that the industry had “learned the lessons” from last year’s disruption.

“The scale of our ambition to improve means that this is a significant challenge,” he added. “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.

“Many parts of the country are set to benefit this summer from a better service but, where introducing improvements puts reliability at risk, we are rightly taking a more cautious approach.”

The new services are the first part of an ambitious plan that could result in up to 6,400 additional trains on the network by the early 2020s. However, they are only being introduced where there is “high confidence” that the infrastructure is robust enough to cope with their introduction.

The summer timetable will include additional peak services between London and Reading, Windsor, Portsmouth and Farnham, as well as additional fast trains from Southend to the centre of the capital.

There will be more direct services on the West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway from local stations to London, the West Midlands and the north-west.

ScotRail will offer additional Sunday services between Glasgow, Fort William and Mallaig and faster journeys between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa.

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