Train timetables slashed due to pandemic staff shortages

Norwich station

Greater Anglia will not operate some week day services from January 4. - Credit: Archant

New year commuters face disruption with trains services being removed from timetables in an attempt to improve reliability following weeks of short notice cancellations.

Greater Anglia announced it will not operate approximately 70 week day services from January 4 due to a combination of "falling passenger numbers" and staff shortages.

This will affect routes such as Norwich to London Liverpool Street; Colchester to Ipswich; Cambridge to Ipswich; and Norwich to Great Yarmouth.

 Norwich Train Station

Among the cancelled services include Greater Anglia services between Norwich and London. - Credit: Archant

In a message to commuters the rail operator said: “We are making some changes to our timetable to reflect the current situation with the pandemic.”

Among the inner city services axed include the 8am and 12.32am trains from Norwich to London Liverpool Street.

The 10am and 3pm services from the capital to Norwich will also no longer be running. 

Regional services affected include the 3.36pm from Norwich to Great Yarmouth, the 4.17pm from Yarmouth to Norwich, and the 10.05pm between Norwich and Lowestoft. 

Greater Anglia said the changes reflected “falling passenger numbers as people follow advice to work from home”. 

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“We also have to plan for our staff being affected by the Omicron variant, especially as we’re already starting to see the early signs of its impact, to ensure we can continue to provide a reliable service,” it added.

Passengers who have booked a ticket for one of the cancelled services can catch either the train before or after the service that has been cancelled.

In recent weeks rail firms condensed timetables in a bid to create more certainty about which services they can and cannot operate due to staff self-isolating or unwell.

Greater Anglia train arrives at London Liverpool Street

Greater Anglia said the changes were due to a combination of "falling passenger numbers" and staff shortages - Credit: Greater Anglia

A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said operators are "working hard to provide a reliable train service" amid reduced staff numbers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: "This is a pragmatic response to rising staff illness. But services must meet the needs of those who still have to travel, especially key sector workers.

"These include protecting first and last services, providing enough capacity to keep passengers at a safe distance from each other and making the new timetable reliable and the information accurate."