New Year's Eve travel: Passengers face weekend from hell as rail services decimated by staff shortages

Train companies are advising rail passengers to check services are running before turning up to stations
Train services will be severely disrupted this weekend (Picture: PA)Train services will be severely disrupted this weekend (Picture: PA)
Train services will be severely disrupted this weekend (Picture: PA)

Staff shortages are causing widespread disruption to rail services across Britain and will disrupt travel on New Year’s Eve.

London North Eastern Railway (LNER), whose services are controlled by the Department for Transport, cancelled at least six long-distance trains on Friday due to a lack of available staff. The same reason meant several other services were severely delayed or only ran part of the planned route.

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A shortage of train crew at Edinburgh meant CrossCountry cancelled a number of trains to and from the station - and has told passengers to check before travelling this weekend. The company has also warned that weekend services will see cancellations, particularly the Cardiff to Nottingham via Birmingham, and Leeds to Edinburgh via Newcastle routes.

Mark Goodall, CrossCountry’s service delivery director, said"We know that a lot of people are travelling over the festive period and we’re sorry that services around New Year’s Eve this year are likely to be impacted by train crew availability. I’d ask that customers check before they travel and continue to be respectful to on-train colleagues who are working as hard as they can to get people where they want to be.”

Avanti West Coast axed several services to and from London Euston due to a staff shortage.

Northern, which is also controlled by the government, said it will run no services on six lines on Sunday – New Year’s Eve – due to “train crew unavailability”.

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The affected routes with a “Do Not Travel” alert connect Manchester Victoria with Chester and Stalybridge, Manchester Piccadilly with Chester via Altrincham, and Preston with Colne. There will also be no trains between Morecambe and Lancaster, or Clitheroe and Bolton.

Services on other lines will finish earlier than usual at around 4pm.

Some Northern staff only work on Sundays as voluntary paid overtime, creating the risk of not having enough available employees to run the full timetable.

Thameslink issued an alert warning of “major disruption” until 5am on January 1 because of “a shortage of train crew”.

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It said its services between Bedford and London will be “significantly reduced” during the afternoon and night of New Year’s Eve. There will also be “far fewer trains” than normal between London and Brighton. Many revellers will struggle to get home after New Year’s Eve celebrations in London as there will be no overnight Thameslink trains to Bedford or Brighton.

Sutton, Rainham and Sevenoaks Thameslink trains will continue to run. Southern and Gatwick Express trains are not affected and Gatwick Airport will continue to be served. Customers for Luton Airport will be able to use EMR trains and Luton Express, although these finish earlier on Sunday.

Jenny Saunders, customer services director, said: “We’re very sorry that we’ve had to alter and reduce our service this weekend. As with train companies in other parts of the country, this is because of train crew shortages, with winter illnesses having a particular impact. We’re doing our best to limit the impact and spread services but, regrettably, we strongly advise passengers to check their journeys before setting out. On Sunday, the service will be particularly affected in the afternoon with no Thameslink trains overnight.”  

London Northwestern Railway warned passengers it is “anticipating crowding and disruption to services on New Year’s Eve”. It said this is due to the “combined impact of recent storms damage across the network, higher than usual rates of sickness absence within our teams as well as reduced capacity within our Sunday timetable”.

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The operator has cancelled all services between Stafford and Crewe, and warned that trains on other routes such as between London Euston and Northampton are “subject to alteration and possible cancellation”.

Chiltern Railways, which runs between London Marylebone and the West Midlands, said “a shortage of train crew” means there is “a high risk of short notice cancellations and disruption on the day across all routes” on Saturday and Sunday.

LNER also suffered disruption on Friday due to “severe weather”, with strong winds affecting parts of the East Coast Main Line.

This meant a service due to run from Aberdeen to London King’s Cross started from Newcastle.

A fault with the signalling system between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed means some southbound lines are blocked.

This is affecting LNER, CrossCountry, Lumo and TransPennine Express services.

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