This week we introduced a reduced timetable to ensure vital train services for key workers could keep running throughout a prolonged coronavirus outbreak.

It would usually take about 14 weeks to process a major timetable change such as this but our Capacity Planning team completed the challenge in just one week.

The government has advised people against non-essential travel. If your journey is essential and you need to go by train, please check before you set out. You should also follow public health advice: if you need to cough or sneeze, please ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’.

How did we do it?

The team initially held a conference call with all Train Operating Companies (TOCs) to set the scene and talk them through Capacity Planning's business continuity plan. Calls then took place with TOCs and Network Rail's routes and regions separately to understand each area's needs.

Similar to a puzzle, the team had to rearrange the timetable's structure by almost halving services – ensuring no trains were planned through possessions (when Network Rail has access to a line for maintenance). We also checked significant junctions for conflicts.

Matt Allen, head of timetable production, said: “One of the key challenges faced was bringing together passenger and freight timetables – aligning passenger to the weekend style structure whilst keeping the normal weekday timetable for freight.”

Fully electrifying the line to York will allow bi-mode trains to use electric traction reducing emissions.

Paul McMahon, managing director, System Operator, added: “This is the biggest ‘Day A for Day B' timetable change the industry has ever seen and none of this ​would have been possible without the hard work and collaboration of the rail industry.

“I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly over the last week and weekend to pull this off in such a short time-frame. The positive attitude and the flexibility of our teams are fantastic and inspiring to see in such challenging times.

“We are now looking at options for further timetable reductions in the weeks ahead.”

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