TRANSPORT for Wales (TfW) has introduced an emergency rail timetable as the organisation prepares for staff absences due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new timetable will come into effect on Wednesday, December 22, and passengers are urged to check their journeys before travelling.
TfW and Network Rail have already seen a significant increase in staff absences since the beginning of December and this has started to impact rail services.
There will be a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in services, but the timetable is designed to reduce late notice cancellations as much as possible.
The first, last and busiest services will continue to operate wherever possible, and there will be no change to the current level of service provided on Sundays.
The timetable will be reviewed regularly but will remain in place for at least the next few weeks.
Colin Lea, TfW planning and performance director said: “We are still very much dealing with a pandemic and have seen a major rise in colleague absences over the last few weeks.
“Since the beginning of December, the number of rail colleagues absent due to Covid-19 has doubled and this will continue to rise with the ongoing risk of the new Omicron variant.
“It’s fundamental we continue to run as reliable a service as possible for our customers and therefore we are introducing a new timetable from Wednesday 22 December, reducing the risk of late notice cancellations.
“Wherever we can, we’ll use any additional carriages made available due to the reduced timetable to run longer trains than normal, to aid with social distancing and provide supplementary road transport, when possible.
“We appreciate this will be frustrating for some customers, and we have not taken this decision lightly. We ask that all customers check online before they travel and follow all advice from Welsh Government.
“I’d also like to thank all our colleagues who are continuing to work in difficult conditions.”
Customers are urged to check www.tfw.wales before travelling and follow the up-to-date guidance from the Welsh Government.
Anybody who has already purchased tickets for services affected by this change will be able to use their tickets on alternative TfW rail services, or they can request a refund.
Rachel Heath, Network Rail’s operations manager for Wales & Western, said: “Our colleagues are working very hard in very challenging circumstances and are dedicated to keeping the country moving, as they did during the height of the pandemic.
“However, we are currently dealing with high levels of sickness across the rail industry due to the virus which, unfortunately, means we may have to make difficult decisions, at short notice, that impact rail services.
“We will continue to give clear and timely updates on any changes that might affect passengers’ journeys and we ask that everyone checks their journey before travelling.”