West Midlands builds on Covid lessons

More robust timetables will be the order of the day after the pandemic, Network Rail’s Central Route Director DAVE PENNEY tells JAMES ABBOTT

Coventry: Pendolino No 390005 pauses with the 12.00 Glasgow Central to London Euston service on 14 March 2018. 
Ken Brunt

Network Rail’s new regional structure was just bedding in when the coronavirus pandemic struck. It’s been a strange time for the railway, as it has for wider society, and a bunch of railway managers fairly new to their roles have had to come to terms with a new reality.

One of them is Dave Penney, NR’s Central Route Director, part of the North West and Central Region under MD Tim Shoveller. Covering the West Midlands conurbation and the Chiltern line up to Marylebone, Central Route is a ‘dense bit of railway, with a lot of passengers and freight’ says Mr Penney. Clearly, there has been less traffic in the pandemic, but that has given an opportunity to sort out some operating issues.

‘The immediate challenge was to restore performance in the West Midlands after the May 2019 timetable change.’ As has been well rehearsed in these pages, the May 2019 West Midlands Trains timetable projected Euston semi-fast services beyond Birmingham New Street to Crewe, Liverpool and Rugeley and introduced some complex splitting and joining of EMUs at New Street. ‘Before it came in, you might have a Euston to New Street service with a Northampton crew, where it’d be easy to get them back to Northampton in the event of problems. With the May 2019 arrangement, there might be a second or third set of train crew involved, and it inevitably became more complex to sort things out if they went awry.’

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