How rail timetabling works

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Network Rail is responsible for coordinating and validating timetables for the national rail network.  Each train and freight operating company develops the timetable they would like to run in their area, and Network Rail then coordinates all the different timetables to produce a single national rail timetable.

We update the timetable for the national rail network twice a year, once in May, once in December.  This allows train and freight operating companies a regular opportunity to make changes to their services - run more or new services, change the timing of their services, and/or change their routes.

The national timetable needs to balance what can be many competing demands – the heavily used commuter services, slower stopping trains serving small communities, non-stop fast trains running between major cities, as well as the requirements of businesses that rely on freight.

We have to manage the available space on the rail network so that it is used fairly and safely.

Developing the timetable is a very complex process that seeks to balance the needs and ambitions of all operators. We have to consult many different organisations as we develop a new national timetable, and it takes 16 months.

How a timetable is developed