For rail commuters, the first working day of the new year is normally when services are restored after Christmas engineering work. But in 2022, hundreds of thousands of passengers face widespread cancellations from Sussex to Scotland. The reason: thousands of train crew isolating because of coronavirus.
One in 10 rail staff are believed to be off work, causing the cancellation of hundreds of trains.
London Victoria was due to reopen for Southern trains after an engineering project that began on Christmas Day. But the main hub for the network – serving south London, Surrey and Sussex – will remain closed for another week.
Southern warns: “We are operating a reduced timetable until further notice to ensure we can run as reliable a service as possible with the ongoing impact of coronavirus isolation and sickness.
“There will be no Southern or Gatwick Express services at London Victoria, Battersea Park, Clapham Junction or Wandsworth Common until Monday 10 January.
“The times of trains on all routes will be changed and, on many routes, services will be reduced.”
Some trains from the south coast will be re-routed to London Bridge, but suburban services will terminate at Balham, where passengers must transfer to the London Underground.
Links from Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes, from East Croydon to London Bridge via Forest Hill, and from Epsom to London Bridge via Carshalton Beeches will not run at all.
Southern blames “the significant ongoing impact of Coronavirus, particularly in terms of staff sickness which businesses and transport operators across the country continue to see”.
The Gatwick Express, which resumed only three weeks ago after an 18-month closure, has been suspended again indefinitely.
Many other train operators have cancelled trains in advance to try to offer reliability on the remaining services.
South Western Railway, which runs to and from the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, says it has “planned cancellations up to and including Sunday 9 January”.
The train operator says: “There may be on-the-day alterations, and therefore it is recommended that you check your journey before you travel.”
ScotRail has commenced a reduced schedule and will run fewer services on weekdays until 28 January. It will cut around 160 trains from the normal 2,000 per day.
Alex Hynes, chief executive of ScotRail, told BBC Today: “We’re pretty confident that the reduced timetable will prove to be a robust service for customers in the coming weeks.
“But I think there will be a few twists and turns in this Covid tale before it’s over.”
Transport for Wales, which brought in an emergency timetable on 22 December, has cancelled almost 100 trains on Tuesday.
TransPennine Express has cancelled 24 trains on Tuesday, including some links from Manchester airport and Liverpool to Glasgow.
“Further short-notice cancellations and amendments to services are likely throughout the day,” the company is warning passengers.
LNER, which runs on the East Coast main line from Scotland, northeast England and Yorkshire to London King’s Cross, has cancelled 10 trains to and from Leeds. It is replacing some Lincoln-London services with buses for part of the journey.
Hull Trains says its reduced service will continue until 12 February, with two early evening service from Hull to London cancelled from Monday to Friday.
On Avanti West Coast, planned engineering work means a reduced schedule to and from London Euston, with a diversion between Milton Keynes and Rugby via Northampton.
Up to 2020, rail fares traditionally increased on the first working day after new year. But last year and again in 2022, ticket prices will rise in March.
The increase in regulated fares – covering season tickets, peak journeys around big cities and off-peak returns – will be 3.8 per cent.