Between the Lines - August 2021

In October last year, the then Directors General, Rail at the Department for Transport asked Network Rail’s Chief Executive, Andrew Haines, to lead a ‘clean sheet’ review of the timetable for the East Coast main line, reflecting the fact that, between Network Rail, DfT and the Office of Rail and Road, capacity on the route had been oversold. I saw this as a welcome and pragmatic approach to the problem, anticipating the policies set out since in the White Paper.
The exercise was to be completed by the end of March this year, and I expected it would be followed by a consultation paper, setting out options and recommendations, similar to the consultation published for the Castlefield corridor following the work of the Manchester Recovery Task Force.

This hasn’t happened; instead, LNER, CrossCountry and TransPennine Express have separately published detailed timetable proposals for May 2022. It’s clear from the individual train operating company (TOC) documents that the overall timetable for the route reflects a significant degree of co-operation between Network Rail and the various TOCs, almost certainly with some arm-twisting behind the scenes. However, it’s enormously disappointing that the industry hasn’t put together a single coherent document showing the full timetable for the route – anyone wanting to know what’s planned for individual stations would have to look at more than one of the TOC websites.

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