Network Rail are temporarily changing how far in advance train timetables can be confirmed. Train times and tickets are usually available for customers to plan and book their journeys up to 12 weeks before departure. However, possibly for the duration of the next timetable beginning on 20th May, some may not be available until closer to the date of departure.
What this means for buying tickets
With only a small number of trains affected by this, we want customers to continue planning their journeys with confidence and have put in place a series of measures to support this. Customers will still be able to purchase tickets 12 weeks before departure, but it is possible the train timetable could change. We expect final timetables to be confirmed six weeks before the departure date.
If a customer purchases a ticket more than six weeks before their journey, they should check back with the train operator they will be travelling with at the six weeks mark to see if their train time has been altered. If so, and they then do not wish to travel, they can request a refund from their original retailer.
If travelling with Chiltern Railways, then customers can travel on an alternative Chiltern train two hours either side of their original service.
Why this is happening
The core train timetable changes twice a year, in May and December. As a result of billions of pounds of investment in the rail network, and in new trains and services, the May 2018 timetable change is the largest in living memory, needing the rescheduling of almost four million services –600% more than normal.
The scale of this change was being managed by the rail industry, which was also taking into account unexpected alterations to infrastructure projects, to the introduction of new trains and to new services by some operators. There was then a significant delay to the major electrification work between Manchester and Preston. This meant that the Network Rail timetable planning teams have been unable to deliver the new timetable within the usual timescales.
The decision to make the temporary change to the availability of final timetables follows discussions with train operators and has been taken to give the greatest possible certainty to customers about the services they can expect to run.