BRITISH regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has warned of issues surrounding planned timetable improvements for the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and the East Coast Main Line (ECML) that are planned for December 2022 and May 2023 respectively.

The ORR has written to both the infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) and the Department for Transport (DfT) highlighting what needs to happen with less than 40 weeks until the planned introduction of the new timetables.

For the WCML there are two timetabling projects. These are the Manchester Recovery Task Force and WCML south. ORR says issues include:

  • NR needs to communicate its plan for access and processes for timetabling. Operators and their funders will then need to act in line with that plan
  • operators, both passenger and freight, should have contractually submitted their timetable applications by now, providing operators and NR with a certainty of the services they can operate
  • NR and DfT need to ensure ongoing power supply and platform improvements are completed as planned, and
  • in producing the timetable, NR also needs to provide its conclusions on capacity and performance for existing access applications. Only then can the ORR determine any disputed applications for the WCML.

On the ECML, the ECML project team has not yet confirmed the timetable it will implement in May 2023. The ORR says given the complexity of the options being considered and issues to resolve, key decisions need to be made by NR and the DfT soon.

The issues highlighted by the ORR include:

  • a decision on the extra platform capacity at Newcastle is needed within the next month
  • a plan is required to resolve access and timetabling applications in time, in accordance with the contractual obligations. Operators and their funders will need to act accordingly, and
  • NR needs to manage the inclusion of freight access applications into the timetable and its projects to mitigate impacts on performance.

The ORR says that delaying decisions beyond this month risks uncertainty for train and freight operators requesting network access.