<p>On track? Some CrossCountry (left) and LNER services are being cut because of train crew shortages</p>

On track? Some CrossCountry (left) and LNER services are being cut because of train crew shortages

Train cancellations across Britain due to Covid and slump in passengers

Services are being affected by illness and dampened demand in the run-up to Christmas

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 22 December 2021 10:41
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In the final working week before Christmas, rail passengers are facing widespread cancellations across Britain.

From Cornwall to Caithness, most cancellations are being blamed on the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

GWR, which links London Paddington with the west of England and South Wales, is telling passengers: “With rising numbers of staff unavailable to work because of testing positive for Covid and having to self-isolate, we have taken steps to maintain service levels across the network, including cancelling all non-safety critical staff training.”

The train operator says cancellations “are predominantly affecting some of our branch line services in Devon and Cornwall”.

ScotRail is warning: “A shortage of train crew due to Covid-19-related illness means that ScotRail will be running an amended service across various routes on their network until further notice.”

The main long-distance operators – Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry and LNER – are also cancelling services due to staff shortage.

CrossCountry warns: “Trains may start later or finish earlier than originally planned, and there will be a number of cancellations throughout the day in order to provide a more robust timetable.”

Elsewhere, trains are being cancelled because of the slump in passenger numbers. Greater Anglia, which links London with Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, says: “A number of weekday services are being taken out of the timetable from Monday 20 December.

“This is due to falling passenger numbers as people follow advice to work from home.”

At the Downing Street briefing on 15 December, Dr Nikki Kahani, medical director of primary care at NHS England, said: “We need those trains as empty as possible so essential workers can go in safely.”

TransPennine Express is blaming an industrial dispute for cancellations.

The firm says: “Services across the TransPennine Express network may be subject to delays and short-notice cancellations due to a lack of available staff caused by industrial relations issues.”

Meanwhile, a replacement for the latest rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, has been named. She is Wendy Morton, MP for Aldridge-Brownhill.

Her predecessor has been moved to the Foreign Office to work on Brexit negotiations following the resignation of Lord Frost.

Rail disruption by train operators

Avanti West Coast

“Trains across the Avanti West Coast network are subject to short-notice cancellations and alterations. This is due to the impact of Covid-19 on train crew availability.

“The majority of train services will continue to run as scheduled, and Avanti West Coast are doing everything they can to run the full timetable. However, you are strongly advised to check your journey before travelling.”

CrossCountry

“Due to train crew availability issues, there will be disruption to CrossCountry services from Monday to Saturday until further notice.

“Trains may start later or finish earlier than originally planned, and there will be a number of cancellations throughout the day in order to provide a more robust timetable.

“You may find that the train you had booked to travel on is no longer running. Some CrossCountry services may also be formed of fewer carriages than usual and will therefore be busier.”

Greater Anglia

“A number of weekday services are being taken out of the timetable from Monday 20 December. This is due to falling passenger numbers as people follow advice to work from home. Greater Anglia also have to plan for staff shortages as a result of the virus, to ensure they can continue to provide a reliable service.”

GWR

“With rising numbers of staff unavailable to work because of testing positive for Covid and having to self-isolate, we have taken steps to maintain services levels across the network, including cancelling all non-safety critical staff training.

“Unfortunately, this also includes planned cancellations designed to minimise the impact on as many customers as possible. These are predominantly affecting some of our branch line services in Devon and Cornwall, as well as some long-distance trains. Some services may be busier than normal.”

LNER

“LNER is making some daily train service reductions due to a shortage of train crew as a result of an increase in the number of our staff self-isolating due to Covid-19.

“We are running the majority of our services over the Christmas period to support our customers. However, the spread of Covid-19 does mean that there will be some planned reductions, and we apologise in advance for any inconvenience this causes.

“These reductions are designed to minimise the impact on as few of our customers as possible and will enable us to provide a more resilient timetable throughout the festive period.”

London Northwestern

“The coronavirus pandemic (and more recently the Omicron variant) has had a significant impact on the London Northwestern Railway workforce meaning more of staff are having to self-isolate.

“Buses will replace all trains on the Abbey Line (between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey) and Marston Vale Line (between Bedford and Bletchley).”

Northern

“Trains across the Northern network are expected to be busy over the festive period, and may be subject to short-notice cancellations and alterations.

“Services in the northwest are being affected by the impacts of Covid and unavailability of train crew with trains being cancelled at short notice.

“You are strongly advised to check your journey before travelling. Disruption is expected to continue until at least Monday 3 January.”

ScotRail

“A shortage of train crew due to Covid-19 related illness means that ScotRail will be running an amended service across various routes on their network until further notice.

“Although the majority of services are expected to run as scheduled, we would strongly advise all ScotRail customers to check your journey before travelling. Trains may be cancelled or revised, both in advance and at short notice.”

Southern

“A shortage of train crew means that there will be a reduced service across the whole Southern network. Disruption is expected until the end of the day.

“Cancellations are to occur on all routes but the following routes will be the worse affected: Epsom to London Bridge; Caterham to London Bridge; London Victoria to Sutton.”

TransPennine Express

“Services across the TransPennine Express network may be subject to delays and short-notice cancellations due to a lack of available staff caused by industrial relations issues.”

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