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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Simon Calder

Major changes to the UK’s rail timetables have taken effect

Simon Calder

“Huge cuts to rail services will hit communities across the North,” Labour’s transport spokesperson, Louise Haigh, is claiming.

On Sunday 15 May a wide range of changes took effect across the country, with some services that were withdrawn during the coronavirus pandemic being restored.

But Ms Haigh said in a social media video: “This weekend we’re going to lose vital rail routes for towns and cities and communities across Yorkshire and across the North because Northern Rail are introducing cuts without consultation to services that people rely on.

“Places like Sheffield are losing our services to places like Wakefield, to Pontefract, to Leeds and York, and the government are completely missing in action.

“The transport secretary [Grant Shapps] hasn’t said a word about those cuts to Northern Rail services.

“This is a brazen breach of the promises the Conservatives made. Grant Shapps should show some responsibility, step in and stand up for passengers.”

A government spokesperson said: “To say the government doesn’t care about the North is simply nonsense.

“Our £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan, which will better connect communities across both the North and Midlands, is the single biggest rail investment in the UK’s history. No government has ever been more committed.

“It will include a new Northern Powerhouse Rail network connecting Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds, with more frequent, faster, and more reliable services.”

Northern, which is run by the government, says “a small number of services” have been removed from the Leeds-Sheffield-Nottingham and Leeds-Sheffield via Dearne lines.

There are also cuts in services from Leeds and Bradford to Ilkley and Skipton; on the York-Harrogate-Leeds line; and on the Hull-Leeds-Halifax route.

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer at Northern, said: “Customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the new timetables are designed to deliver high levels of reliability.

“We’ve made decisions about our timetables based on the levels of resource we have available and prioritising the routes with the highest customer demand, and which support the region’s economic growth.”

Elsewhere, Northern has removed “a small number of services” on the Manchester-New Mills and between Whitby and Middlesbrough.

More trains will run between Hull and Bridlington, on the Hope Valley line in Derbyshire and between Darlington and Saltburn. There will be increased seat capacity on the Settle and Carlisle line.

Transport for Wales has reinstated a large number of trains on commuter lines, and added services to resorts such as Llandudno, Aberystwyth and Tenby as well as into Snowdonia.

On the West Coast main line, Avanti West Coast now runs four direct services between London Euston and North Wales each day, up from two. It has also reinstated a third train each hour for most of the day between London Euston and Manchester.

London-Birmingham links remain at two per hour, one down on the pre-pandemic frequency.

The first day of the upgraded timetable began poorly for Avanti West Coast, with the first three departures from Euston – to Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster – all cancelled due to staff shortage.

On the Great Western network, a summer seaside special is being reintroduced from London Paddington to Newquay in north Cornwall through to September.

GWR is cutting its Portsmouth-Brighton service, saying the rolling stock will be used to “strengthen the busy, hourly Cardiff to Portsmouth service to five carriages”.

On the newly restored Exeter-Okehampton line into Dartmoor, services will double.

Further changes take place next week. On Monday 23 May, in the Scottish Borders, a new station will open on the East Coast main line.

The £20m project at the village of Reston, north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, will link the area with Edinburgh and Newcastle five times a day by TransPennine Express. In addition, an early LNER northbound service and late evening southbound train will stop there – though neither serves London.

The much-delayed and over-budget Crossrail project through central London will begin running a partial service from London Paddington to Abbey Wood in southeast London on Tuesday 24 May. It will be known as the Elizabeth Line.

Bond Street station on the new link will not open until later in the year.

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