How a delay to services in one area can affect trains elsewhere in the country

Most problems on the rail network are fixed quickly and without disruption, but sometimes a problem on one part of the railway can have a knock-on effect on another.

Every day, 22,000 passenger trains and 2,000 freight trains use the rail network. At peak times, critical parts of the network now run at close to 100 per cent capacity.

We resolve the majority of problems quickly, avoiding delays for passengers. However, particularly on busy routes, where trains need to run to a very tight schedule, even something as simple as a blown fuse can cause knock-on delays that continue for hours afterwards.

These knock-on delays often affect both the route with the issue and any connecting routes. This in turn can mean that trains, drivers and crews aren’t in the right place at the right time to run other services in the day’s timetable.

How we’re reducing the effect of knock-on delays

No one wants to sit on a train that’s not moving or wait on a platform for one that’s had to be delayed or cancelled. But even though we do as much as we can to avoid and reduce disruption, knock-on delays do happen. The rail industry works together to achieve the best balance between getting trains back on schedule as safely and quickly as possible and minimising inconvenience for passengers.

We have contingency plans in place with all the train companies so we can quickly alter timetables to get trains running back on time as soon as possible. Here are some of the actions we take:

  • We may cancel trains so that there is space on the tracks for delayed trains to complete their journey quickly.
  • We may miss out stops to make up time, or add stops to make sure we get everyone where they need to be – even if they are a little late getting there.
  • Sometimes, we may have to cancel all trains in the affected area for an hour. This is the quickest way to get trains running on time again.

It’s important that we take these actions, particularly on busy routes where it would take many hours before all trains were back on schedule otherwise.

As well as helping to get delayed trains running on time, we work hard to prevent problems happening in the first place.

How we try to prevent delays