Several train operators – including ScotRail and South Western Railway – said they have no choice but to slash services as a result of Covid-induced staff shortages.
From today until 17 January, when the new timetable will be introduced, Southwestern Railway trains will be subject to short notice cancellations.
“The onset of the Omicron variant has led to a shortage of staff across our business – from drivers and guards to engineers and controllers,” said the company in a statement.
“These staff shortages have inevitably had a significant impact on our services, leading to short term cancellations.”
Greater Anglia, Thameslink and Hull Trains also unveiled timetable reductions.
“We’re really sorry but we’re being forced to bring in a temporary timetable from 4 to 28 January 2022 as we continue to see colleagues off sick because of Covid-19,” announced ScotRail via Twitter as it cut down 150 daily services – including routes such as Glasgow to Edinburgh, Glasgow to Lanark and Edinburgh to North Berwick.
According to Transport Focus’s boss Anthony Smith, the operators’ decision was the only possible. “This is a pragmatic response to rising staff illness,” he said “But services must meet the needs of those who still have to travel, especially key sector workers.
“These include protecting first and last services, providing enough capacity to keep passengers at a safe distance from each other and making the new timetable reliable and the information accurate.”
The news follows Southern’s decision to cancel trains from 30 December to 10 January due to “coronavirus isolation and sickness,” City A.M. reported yesterday.
The impact of Covid on staff health and passenger demand is not the only reason for cancelled services. CrossCountry was forced to run a limited service today as a result of the strike action called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
“We’re sorry, but due to strike action by members of the RMT union, we are running an extremely limited service today,” the operator tweeted this morning.
Continuing throughout the day, the strike was launched by workers at Edinburgh Waverley station because of CrossRail’s alleged undermining of the role of conductors and harassment in the workplace.
“Disruption to services today is down to the private companies who think they can treat rail workers with barely concealed contempt as they ride roughshod over them,” said RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch.