Learning the lessons of timetable changes

18 May 2023

Another timetable change on rail is happening this weekend.

In a previous blog I highlighted how the railway approaches timetable changes matters, especially when major changes are being considered and long-established journey patterns are evolving. It’s important to consult passengers and to explain why changes are being planned.

In December, Southeastern made significant timetable changes that received some backlash as there was no consultation. The changes were designed to boost punctuality, provide a more consistent timetable throughout the day and to provide space on trains where it is needed most – all important things to passengers. We recommended to Southeastern that it keep the timetable under review and listen to people’s concerns about any adverse impact.

To assist with this our sister organisation London TravelWatch, supported by Transport Focus, carried out a survey with passengers. We wanted to understand the impact of the changes on their journeys and how the quality of the service compared to before the changes. We also want to hear what passengers thought of how Southeastern communicated the timetable changes and how well they engaged them.

While many passengers have seen a benefit or not been affected by the December 2022 timetable changes, a sizeable minority have been adversely affected. 42 per cent of passengers affected said their journeys now take longer and many commuters say their journeys are interrupted by having to change trains.

Many of the people we spoke to want to see some further changes to the current Southeastern timetable. It is welcome that there are service improvements happening in this new timetable change. We encourage Southeastern to continue reviewing and introduce further improvements where needed.

Over 80 per cent of people surveyed said that consulting passengers prior to timetable changes is the right thing to do. This is important not just for Southeastern, but for the wider rail and public transport industry.

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