Rail passengers heading home after festive break face delays

Rail passengers heading home after festive break face delays and cancellations due to staff off sick and bank holiday engineering… but roads remain quiet before the big return of schools and workers tomorrow

  • Speed restriction between Brighton and Haywards Heath following safety inspection of track  
  • Great Western Railway trains from Bristol to Cardiff delayed due to overhead electric wire damage
  • Delays between Sunderland and Middlesbrough on Northern after signalling cables were stolen 
  • Issues on top of planned disruption due to staff absences with 1 in 3 trains cancelled in recent days
  • ** Are you facing any problems on the roads or rails today? Please email: [email protected] ** 

Rail passengers again faced chaos today as services were disrupted on top of planned Covid-related cancellations due to overhead cable problems and speed restrictions on the final day before much of Britain returns to work.

Southern Rail travellers, who are already enduring another week of longer journeys due to staff absences closing its hub at London Victoria, had trouble getting around between Brighton and Haywards Heath this morning.

This was due to a speed restriction following a safety inspection of the track carried out earlier today, which meant services were being cancelled or delayed in East Sussex on top of the already-reduced timetable.

One affected passenger tweeted Southern to complain that their train to work had been ‘cancelled twice and now the one that’ll make me over an hour late is getting more and more delayed by the minute’. Another claimed that there were a ‘lot of people waiting at Haywards Heath a train with no staff announcements to be heard’.

There were also problems for Great Western Railway passengers travelling to and from England and Wales with an unplanned reduced service running between Bristol and Cardiff due to overhead electric wire damage.

And in the North East there were delays of up to half an hour between Sunderland and Middlesbrough on Northern services after signalling cables were stolen, which meant trains had to run at a reduced speed.

These issues were on top of the chaos affecting trains which is set to cause more misery for those returning to work this week, with staff shortages forcing the cancellation of nearly a third of services in recent days.

However, it appeared many people had already returned from their Christmas and New Year holidays because the roads were extremely quiet – although The AA expects congestion to build when schools go back tomorrow. 

No major incidents causing congestion on Google Traffic today, which was showing ‘green’ across almost the whole country

LONDON: Congestion levels provided by TomTom this morning were very low, with the 10am data in London at 9 per cent

MANCHESTER: Congestion was also at 9 per cent in Manchester this morning, 10 percentage points lower than average 

BIRMINGHAM: Congestion levels of 9 per cent were eight percentage points lower than average for the time of day

No major incidents causing congestion were reported by Highways England or Google Traffic. Congestion levels provided by TomTom were very low, with the 10am data in London, Manchester and Birmingham all at 9 per cent.

This is 19 percentage points lower than average for the time of day in London, 10 points lower in Manchester and 8 points lower in Birmingham.

How Covid-related staff shortages are affecting train services across UK

  • Avanti West Coast: Says it is ‘doing everything we can to run our full timetable but there may be some short notice cancellations’. All peak restrictions removed until January 4.
  • c2c: Normal service.
  • Caledonian Sleeper: Normal service.
  • Chiltern Railways: Operator warns it ‘may have to make some short notice changes to our timetable’ because of the ‘impact of Covid-19 on our train crews’
  • CrossCountry: Removed around 50 trains from its timetables until January 8, and warns of disruption ‘until further notice’. Tells passengers to avoid travelling on New Year’s Eve due to RMT strike.
  • East Midlands Railway: Revised timetable due to a ‘high level of staff sickness including drivers and train crew’. Some services being replaced by buses.
  • Eurostar: Normal service.
  • Gatwick Express: No services ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘ongoing effect of coronavirus isolation and sickness’.
  • Grand Central: Normal service.
  • Great Northern: Reduced service on all routes ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘significant ongoing impact of coronavirus, particularly in terms of staff sickness’.
  • Great Western Railway: Cancellations because of ‘rising numbers of staff unavailable to work due to self-isolation requirements’ .
  • Greater Anglia: Some services removed from timetable ‘due to falling passenger numbers and ‘to plan for our staff being affected by the Omicron variant’.
  • Heathrow Express: Normal service.
  • Hull Trains: A temporary timetable will operate until February 12 to ‘minimise disruption’.
  • LNER: Reduced timetable up until at least January 7 ‘due to a shortage of train crew as a result of an increase in the number of staff self-isolating with Covid-19’.
  • London Northwestern Railway: Services are ‘subject to cancellation or alteration’ due to a shortage of train drivers.
  • Lumo: Normal service.
  • Merseyrail: Some trains will be cancelled on certain lines from ‘today until further notice’ because of the ‘impact of Covid-19 and other sickness affecting staff availability’.
  • Northern: Operating ‘several amended timetables’ because of ‘Covid and its impact on the availability of our train crew’.
  • ScotRail: It is ‘being forced to bring in a temporary timetable’ until January 28 ‘as we continue to see colleagues off sick because of Covid-19’.
  • South Western Railway: Services subject to ‘short-term alterations’ due to the ‘impact of the Omicron variant on staff numbers’ with new timetable coming in January 17.
  • Southeastern: Warns that services may change at short notice if there ‘may be occasions when our staff are sick or self-isolating due to Covid-19’.
  • Southern: Cancels a raft of services and its hub at London Victoria station will stay closed until January 10 ‘owing to the significant ongoing impact of coronavirus’.
  • Stansted Express: Half-hourly service running.
  • Thameslink: Reduced service on all routes ‘until further notice’ because of the ‘significant ongoing impact of coronavirus, particularly in terms of staff sickness’.
  • TransPennine Express: Services may be cancelled at short notice ‘due to lack of available staff’.
  • Transport for London: Mostly normal service, but delays in recent days on Bakerloo and Metropolitan lines due to cancellations.
  • Transport for Greater Manchester: Reduced Metrolink services ‘due to the increasing impact of Covid-19 on tram driver staffing levels’.
  • Transport for Wales: ‘Emergency timetable’ to ‘prepare for an expected rise in staff shortages due to the emergence of the Omicron variant’.
  • West Midlands Railway: Some trains ‘may be cancelled at short notice’ because ‘many colleagues are currently unable to attend work’.


The congestion level represents the extra travel time for drivers on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions.

This means that a 9 per cent level will result in a 30-minute trip taking three minutes more than with no traffic. 

The AA told MailOnline that the roads were ‘very quiet’ today but tomorrow ‘could be a different story’ as children head back to school and people go back to work. 

Rail commuters returning to work this week face several days of travel chaos as new figures show nearly a third of services have been axed at some stations in recent days.

Covid-related staff shortages continued to hit services yesterday, while major engineering works on key commuter routes are scheduled to continue until January 12.

Analysis by ontimetrains.co.uk found passengers at Manchester Airport have been among the worst hit, where 30 per cent of scheduled services were axed on New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Eve 30 per cent were also cancelled and 26 per cent on 30 December.

Nearby Manchester Piccadilly, a key north-south and east-west hub serving the West Coast Mainline, was also among the worst for cancellations, with 16 per cent, 20 per cent and 15 per cent of services axed respectively on those days.

Elsewhere, Birmingham Moor Street had 17 per cent, 26 per cent and 22 per cent cancelled respectively.

For Cardiff Central, the figures were 14 per cent, 19 per cent and 14 per cent while at Edinburgh 23 per cent of services were cancelled on 31 December and 20 per cent the day before.

At some stations, less than 50 per cent of services arrived on time on some days.

On one day at Manchester Airport, December 19, a staggering 39 per cent of services were cancelled, with 35 per cent the day before, causing havoc for air passengers trying to reach the airport by train.

One of the highest cancellations figures recorded was 53 per cent of services at Manchester Oxford Road on 19 December. On that day, just 20 per cent of services arrived on time.

The rate of cancellations does not bode well for commuters looking to return to the network in the coming days, with large swathes returning to work from tomorrow following the Christmas period.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, insisted only about 5 per cent of services across the whole mainline network were axed on New Year’s Day.

Operator Southern has announced that no trains will run into or from London Victoria, Britain’s second busiest station, until January 10. 

This is due to high levels of ‘coronavirus isolation and sickness’ among staff.

Many other operators have cancelled trains due to staff being off sick or isolating amid soaring Covid infections.

They include Avanti West Coast, Greater Anglia, London North Eastern Railway, Northern, ScotRail, TransPennine Express and Transport for Wales.

At least nearly one in ten rail staff across all train firms are thought to be off with Covid-related sickness.

Services were also hit by a 24-hour strike among CrossCountry staff on New Year’s Eve, orchestrated by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The dispute involved train managers and senior conductors in a row over the role of guards.

Further disruption will be caused while Network Rail finishes the last of 370 engineering works projects scheduled over the Christmas and New Year period.

Passengers on the West Coast Mainline face disruption between tomorrow  and 12 January while flood protection upgrades are carried out between Milton Keynes and Rugby.

Trains will be diverted via Northampton, adding at least 25 minutes to journeys.

It means London Northwestern Railway will run fewer services between Crewe and London Euston, with passengers needing to change trains at Rugby.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast South route director, confirmed the works would mean fewer services, more tightly packed carriages and longer journey times. 

This graphic shows the planned Southern closures until January 4 – a period that has now been extended until January 10

Meanwhile upgrades to signalling and track on the Transpennine Route will hit services in and out of Manchester until at least tomorrow.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, called on operators to temporarily withdraw some services on a planned basis.

He said this would avoid chaotic last-minute cancellations, adding: ‘These are harder for passengers to deal with and more likely to lead to overcrowding.’

A Rail Delivery Group spokesman said: ‘Our colleagues, like those in other industries, have been impacted by the virus.

‘While we’re working hard to provide a reliable train service to key workers and other passengers with reduced staff, some rail companies are introducing amended timetables owing to much less demand for train services.’

** Are you facing any problems on the roads or rails today? Please email: [email protected] ** 

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