Sunday 19 May 2019 2:20 pm

Commuters urged to plan travel as new rail timetable comes into force

The rail industry has today pushed through its new summer timetable, a year after changes caused havoc across the country.

An extra 1,000 services have been added per week to the timetable, with extra stops and longer trains.

The train firms that were caught up in last year's chaos – in which thousands of services were cancelled, delayed and overcrowded – said they had learned the lessons from last year's timetable shakeup.

They said that extra staff have been provided to support passengers and monitor performance, while Network Rail, which owns Britain's rail infrastructure, has rapid response teams on standby to deal with any track issues.

Read more: All aboard the blame train as report reveals failures in rail chaos

Nevertheless, customers have been told to check before they as some times have been changed. 

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: “Train companies and Network Rail are focussed on maintaining reliability as we deliver the step change in services people want and the country needs. We know that running more services cannot come at the expense of running a punctual railway.

“Introducing 1,000 more services a week to meet demand on a congested network poses a significant challenge but we are working together to ensure improvements are introduced with the absolute minimum of disruption.”

The national timetable is routinely changed twice a year – once in May, to take effect in the summer, and once in December, for the winter. The changes are designed to enable new services to be introduced following infrastructure investment and new trains.

Train operator South Western Railway said it would add 300 new services a week from 19 May, which chief executive Andy Mellors said came after "an extensive consultation process and feedback sessions that were undertaken previously with local stakeholders, businesses, community groups and customers".

Read more: Chris Grayling could have done more to avert May timetable chaos, say MPs

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:​ “This time around passengers need the rail industry to deliver a smooth set of timetable improvements – so they can get on the train, and reliably use both welcome new and existing services.

“Train companies must have plenty of visible staff on hand to guide passengers, to answer questions on how these changes will affect them, and to explain what travel choices they have."