Why we sometimes miss out stations to help trains run on time

The challenges we face on our network are the same as those currently faced by all rail operators in the UK. Britain's railways are now seeing a large and ongoing increase in usage, and passengers numbers are at their highest since the late 1940s (when nearly everyone travelled by rail).

We are restricted by the scope of the existing track infrastructure, and can only carry a certain number of trains on it at any one time. Our network is the largest in the UK and it carries the most passengers.There are more than 230 million passenger journeys on the railway to and from London Waterloo every year – an increase of over 100 per cent in 20 years. London Waterloo is Britain’s busiest station, and a vital part of one of the most heavily used railways in the country. In the coming decades, Network Rail forecasts that demand will increase again by 40% (2014 – 2043).

During peak periods we have to operate to our maximum capacity in respect of train numbers, as passengers numbers during both morning and evening peak periods are at their highest. This means that the timing gap between trains is small, leaving limited time in which to recover from any significant delays created by incidents. 

In the event an incident or incidents occur, difficult decisions need to be made. Our Train Service Management Team take great care with every decision they make. In such a situation, even one single stop to pick up a few passengers can sometimes cause an already delayed train to reach an excessive level in respect of overall delay, and cause serious knock on delays to other services, to a degree that will be difficult to recover from (as these services become delayed behind on the same line of route). In such a situation, and precisely because our primary focus is passenger need, we often have to make a decision to run that train fast to clear the line. This helps us to reduce knock on delays to other trains, get them back to right time running, and prevent the whole of the peak period from becoming disrupted due to escalating delays. The understandable priority for any rail company is to prevent every passenger in peak from becoming delayed.

The video above, kindly provided by Network Rail, explains more about 'knock on' delays and how they affect the UK rail network.

When we choose stations to miss out, to ensure the impact on any passengers not picked up by a train run fast is mitigated, we look at when the next service to call will be and select stations where there will only be a small delay before the next service calls.

To improve capacity and improve service flexibility in respect of disruption recovery, we are investing 1.2 billion into our network. This includes new and longer trains, and refurbished trains with more accommodation. We have also recently concluded a timetable consultation (for the latter, the results of which will be announced soon). 

We fully appreciate that our customers want to see positive changes made as quickly as possible. We are still in the very early stages of our new franchise, and are still working on delivering the first parts of our plan. From December 2018 customers will start to feel the benefits of the initial investment outcomes, which will be fully deployed by December 2020, including a brand new fleet of trains for suburban services.

We are committed to the principle that our customers sit at the heart of everything that we do, and our plans for SWR will transform our customers’ experience for the better. 

You can find more about our investment plan here