Britain’s rail passengers could face delays and cancellations once again, as more improvement works and timetable changes are planned for 2019.
That’s according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has warned that further significant timetable changes, and large-scale maintenance and improvement works are being rolled out this year – this could mean another ‘difficult’ year in store for passengers, following ‘unacceptable levels of disruption in 2018’.
In May last year, commuters faced unprecedented delays and cancellations when services operated by Govia Thameslink and Northern went into meltdown after the roll out of a new timetable, resulting in one in ten of the UK’s trains being cancelled every day during that period. It affected travellers up and down the country.
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More timetable changes in store
Facing overcrowded and disrupted journeys, we heard from hundreds of commuters who had been impacted – juggling pressures from work and childcare, through to experiencing panic attacks, final written warnings at work and even moving house to avoid their commute.
Read Jonathan’s story – ‘I changed jobs and moved house to avoid my commuting hell’
Rail timetables usually change in May for the summer, and some train companies are expected to make significant changes. The PAC is concerned that the Department for Transport will not be able to manage these changes effectively.
Some train companies are changing their timetables because they are putting on more services, such as Scotrail and London Northwestern Railway.
London Northwestern Railway has announced it will make timetable changes in in May to ‘make more of the fabulous station that is Birmingham New Street’. This includes more late night and weekend services.
Other train companies are yet to announce firm plans to make changes. Check the National Rail website to find out about your route.
Manchester faces delays and cancellations
The Greater Manchester area was hit hard by the timetable chaos and other delays. It’s no wonder that 68% of peak-time journeys in Greater Manchester over the past year were delayed or cancelled.
Our latest research found that, compared with other busy commuter hubs including Leeds, London Waterloo and Birmingham New Street, the Greater Manchester area suffered from 17% more delays.
We teamed up with On Time Trains to look at delays and cancellations between 1 February 2018 and 31 January 2019 in eight of the busiest train stations in Greater Manchester (including Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road), four of the busiest train stations in London (including London Victoria and London Waterloo) and four of the busiest train stations in the rest of the UK (including Leeds and Birmingham New Street). See the full results below:
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Commuting is a ‘constant struggle’
Many delayed commuters are losing faith with their train companies. This includes John Storton, from Warrington in Greater Manchester.
John told us that the delays on his Northern train service affected his career. He said: ‘I left my full-time job in Manchester because of the constant difficulties with the stressful commute.’
‘What should be a simple journey is a constant struggle on the Northern services. Delays or cancellations made me constantly late for work. The platforms at Oxford Road are far too crowded and often I was spending far too much time waiting around and battling to get on trains.’
Which? is calling for the voices of northern commuters like John to be heard during the government’s rail review, which will be looking at the management and operation of the railway and is expected to announce recommendations later this year.
Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: ‘If the government rail review is to have any hope of restoring faith in the system, it must ensure the views of these passengers – which have too often been an afterthought – are heard and acted upon.
‘Train companies should not use the review to delay action. The industry must start listening to passengers to address the chronic issues they are facing.’
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