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Latest on our rail service

What’s happening with the rail service?

We amended timetables from Monday 28 February, following a period of significant staff absence due to Covid and a major blockade of engineering works on the Brighton mainline between 19-27 February.

This included adding more capacity for commuters coming back into the office in central London especially to London Victoria. In mid-May, we will introduce a new timetable with the aim of further uplifting services again.

How has Covid affected our rail service?

While the picture is improving overall and the direct impact of Covid on colleagues is reducing, its legacy continues to have an impact on our business and services.

One example is a backlog of training for drivers, meaning fewer are available than is ideal. For a long period during the pandemic, new drivers and those undergoing their standard route refresher training could not train with another person in the confined space of a train cab. This was due to social distancing restrictions. This backlog is clearing but without up-to-date training, it means fewer are available overall.

So, in the short term, we have taken a prudent approach to adding services, with the aim of ensuring we can offer reliability, rather than having to cancel trains last minute and create large gaps in the service.

However, we did add more services in February and plan to introduce a new timetable with a further uplift in services in mid-May.

What about the future - when will things return to normal?

Following a sustained period with significantly lower passenger numbers, we are waiting to see how travel demand and patterns stabilise. This may take some months to assess. The railway has seen large losses in revenue over the course of the pandemic and it is clear people will continue to work from home more regularly in the future. The simple fact is that we need to balance the choices we make going forward with what’s affordable to run once we establish what the ‘new world’ of travel looks like.

Therefore, we will be prioritising our services in the most efficient way and adapting to what customers need for the future. This will be an ongoing process of review as part of our overall timetable planning process, which considers all areas across our network. This complex work, which takes many months of detailed planning is important because any small change we make in one area, can have an impact on another.

Our next timetable change will take place in mid-May, where we plan to provide a further uplift of services as far as possible given the careful balance we need to consider for the future.

What’s happening with Gatwick Express?

Gatwick Express will return on 3 April.

Trains are getting busier, how safe am I?

We are all getting used to being around more people following the relaxation of Covid rules across the country. We have enough space for those travelling now overall, but people may find a quieter train by travelling at a slightly different time if possible.

Passengers can make the most of the available space by using the full length of the train and all the doors, especially at busy interchange stations such as East Croydon and London Bridge. On Thameslink services, our on-board screens help show how busy each carriage is for an easy guide.

Our focus on Covid safety continues and we recognise returning to busier trains may concern some of our customers. However, our trains are regularly cleaned with long-lasting anti-viral solutions and the air is refreshed around every six minutes. So, even if people are now sitting closer to others on board, they can feel reassured and confident.

You can check what the quietest services are by using our ‘Find a quieter train’ tool.