Rail passengers face disruption due to Covid and engineering work

Rail passengers face disruption due to Covid and engineering work
Short-notice cancellations are particularly affecting Anglo-Scottish trains

Rail passengers around Great Britain face delays and disruption over the coming week, with short-notice Omicron-related cancellations adding to planned engineering closures.

TransPennine Express is warning: “Services across our network over the coming days may be subject to delays and short-notice cancellations due to a lack of available staff caused by increasing staff sickness and industrial relations issues.”

The train operator has cancelled 24 trains including three expresses between Manchester airport and Glasgow, and is curtailing 10 other journeys.

TransPennine Express warns: “Further short-notice cancellations and amendments to services are likely throughout the day.”

A points failure at the key station of York is causing further problems, delaying some trains by up to an hour.

LNER, the main operator on the East Coast main line from London King’s Cross to Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland, has cancelled a dozen services between Leeds and London due to “increased levels of train crew absences”.

Trains in the Leeds area are also being affected by planned Network Rail engineering work. Track remodelling, signalling upgrades and new overhead wire installation will continue until 3 January.

Avanti West Coast, which links southern Scotland with northwest England, the West Midlands and London Euston, is warning of short-notice cancellations.

On Monday morning, Avanti links from Edinburgh, Liverpool and Birmingham to London have been cancelled “due to a member of train crew being unavailable”.

The same cause has led to the cancellation of an afternoon train from London to Glasgow. A departure to Edinburgh will run no further north than Preston.

Passengers with advance tickets can travel on the train immediately before or after the cancelled service.

For the rest of the year, trains on the West Coast main line in Scotland will be diverted due to planned engineering work, extending journey times.

Just before Christmas, Transport for Wales cut between 10 and 15 per cent of its services, saying: “This is to prepare for an expected rise in staff shortages due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and to ensure the company can continue to provide a reliable service throughout this latest stage of the pandemic.”

Other operators have cut rail services completely on branch lines to allow crew to be deployed in main line services. Bus replacement services are running between Leamington and Nuneaton, Bletchley and Bedford, and Watford and St Alban’s.

Network Rail staff illnesses are also having an effect. Services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle are unable to run after a signaller fell ill.

“Trains may be cancelled or delayed until approximately 7pm,” says National Rail.

Planned engineering work has closed the line from London Victoria to Gatwick airport and Brighton until 4 January, with trains running from London Bridge instead.

ScotRail has published a reduced timetable for most all of January. The train operator has told passengers: “The rapid spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant has resulted in a large number of absences at ScotRail, with colleagues testing positive, awaiting results, or having to self-isolate.”

On weekdays from 4 to 28 January dozens of trains will be cancelled – mostly shorter distance commuter services.

West Highland and far north routes are unaffected.