New temporary timetable introduced in response to spread of Omicron variant

As previously flagged, from Monday 1th7 January 2022 South Western Railway (SWR) will be introducing a new temporary timetable designed to ensure reliability for customers and cater to key workers, school pupils and those who cannot work from home.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has necessitated the need for a new timetable, with staff shortages across SWR having led to unavoidable short-notice cancellations. With current guidance to work from home, the new timetable will sufficiently meet current demand. Rigorous planning has gone into developing this timetable to deliver the right level of service for the current situation, but SWR will continue to monitor its services to ensure that they continue to deliver for its customers. The changes will remain under review going forward.

Core timetables are available through the SWR website at https://www.southwesternrailway.com/plan-my-journey/timetables, with journey planners set to be updated on a week-by-week basis. Updates will take place towards the end of each week, so customers are advised to check before they travel via www.southwesternrailway.com

The key changes to flag are as follows:

  • Waterloo to Exeter services will split at Salisbury
  • Waterloo to Weymouth services will split at Bournemouth
  • The Shepperton branch will reduce to hourly
  • Waterloo to Alton will reduce to hourly
  • Waterloo to Basingstoke will reduce to hourly
  • The last train of each day will be earlier than at present

Commenting on the new timetable, SWR’s Managing Director Claire Mann said:  “The spread of the Omicron variant has had a significant impact on our railway, with fewer people using the train and staff shortages impacting on our ability to consistently deliver the current timetable. Having assessed demand and spoken to our industry colleagues, we believe this new timetable is the most effective means of ensuring our customers receive a reliable service, with short-notice cancellations minimised.” 

“Journey planners will be updated on a week-by-week basis, with updates taking place towards the end of each week. Customers should check their journey as close to their time of travel as possible.” 

We would like to apologise again for any inconvenience this situation will cause. We have tried to answer some anticipated questions below, if you have any other questions or comments please let us know.

How long will these timetable changes last for? 

We are closely monitoring the impact of Omicron, and will keep our timetable under constant review.

How does this timetable cater for schoolchildren?  

This timetable is similar to the one we ran before May 2021, where we had ensured our services were able to meet the increase in demand on key school routes at the start and end of the school day.

Why are journey planners being updated weekly?  

Our teams need to make amendments to the timetable to ensure services are planned to factor in engineering works, including a number of midweek engineering works taking place in the next few weeks. As the engineering work taking place varies week by week, there will be some variations to the timetable each week. As such we are only able to update journey planners a few days before the start of the week.

Are these changes permanent?

This is not a permanent or long-term timetable. We hope to be able to increase the number of services we provide as soon as we can, once staffing levels allow.

Will you add services as people return to the railway and demand increases?

Throughout the pandemic we have closely monitored demand and ensured our service level matches demand, and we will continue to do so.