Hundreds of daily train services across England, Scotland and Wales are being removed from timetables in an attempt to improve reliability after weeks of cancellations at short notice, according to rail firms.

At least eight train operators have either already reduced frequencies on many routes or will do so in the coming days in response to pandemic-related staff shortages. Passengers travelling on New Year’s Eve also face major disruption because of industrial action.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said a 24-hour strike by its members employed by CrossCountry was “solidly supported”, causing the majority of the operator’s services to be cancelled.

In recent weeks, rail firms across Britain have cancelled trains at short notice owing to staff who are self-isolating or are unwell.

Many have responded by issuing reduced timetables in an effort to create more certainty about which services they can and cannot operate.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, an industry body, said operators were “working hard to provide a reliable train service” amid reduced staff numbers.

“Some rail companies are introducing amended timetables owing to much less demand for train services,” they said. “This could mean short-notice cancellations and changes for customers, so our advice to anyone travelling is to check online before they set out or to sign up for automatic alerts from National Rail alert me [app].”Anthony Smith, the chief executive of the consumer watchdog Transport Focus, said: “This is a pragmatic response to rising staff illness. But services must meet the needs of those who still […]

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