After an almost-complete shutdown of Britain’s rail network for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, train services are slowly re-starting across the nation – but with some very significant gaps.
A combination of engineering work, strikes and staff shortage means that millions of prospective passengers face disruption between now and the new year.
At Britain’s busiest station, London Waterloo, a one-day strike involving members of the RMT union in a long-running dispute over the role of guards has sharply reduced service on South Western Railway. Some lines are closed completely.
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Between Waterloo and Exeter, instead of the normal direct journey, the trip will involve two trains and a bus and take over two hours longer than normal.
South Western Railway passengers will also be affected by industrial action on New Year’s Eve.
Before then, on 29 December, members of the RMT union employed by Northern Rail will stage their 20th Saturday strike in a row on the same issue will see the majority of trains cancelled with very few services running after 5pm – affecting travellers from Merseyside to Tyneside.
Northern Rail passengers between Preston and Blackpool have been hit by overrunning engineering work.
“Trains are returning to normal but may still be delayed by up to 20 minutes or amended,” said National Rail.
Network Rail Christmas engineering projects in the northwest are also overrunning between Oxenholme and Windermere, and Lancaster and Morecambe.
Liverpool Lime Street and other nearby stations are heavily disrupted because of a resignalling project, while the East Midlands Line is undergoing work between Bedford and Kettering. But in terms of sheer numbers affected, the most significant disruption is at two of the key London terminal stations: Liverpool Street and Victoria.
The main line from Liverpool Street to East Anglia is closed until 2 January. Passengers to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich are required to take the Central Line of the London Underground to Newbury Park, then a bus to Ingatestone in Essex, followed by a train.
The main London-Gatwick-Brighton link is closed between Victoria and Clapham Junction, though a diversion via London Bridge provides an alternative for travellers to the airport and the south coast.
New statistics from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that 2018 is proving the worst year for punctuality since 2005.
One in seven trains have been recorded as “late” by the industry’s performance measures of punctuality, which means five minutes for shorter journeys and 10 minutes for longer-distance services.