UNLIKE this year’s chaos on the trains when Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and rail bosses just hoped for the best over new timetables, they do have six months to prepare for the first of a series of closures at King’s Cross when engineers undertake a £250m track upgrade at the busy London terminal which serves the North.
Yet, while many Yorkshire passengers travelling to and from the capital will recoil at the prospect of trains beginning and ending at Peterborough just as slick new rolling stock is introduced on the East Coast Main Line, essential work on this scale will always result in some inconvenience because the main routes are already operating at capacity.
However it is also a chance for the rail industry to start redeeming itself by trying to keep disruption to a minimum. Bus replacement services should be viewed as a last resort. Where possible, it will make sense for stations closer to London, like Finsbury Park, to be utilised so passengers can catch Tube connections. It might also make sense to see if capacity can be increased on the line from Sheffield to the capital, with connecting trains to Leeds and York.
These need to be planned in advance. Either way, communication will be crucial – and operators here are still to heed the Office of Rail and Road’s interim inquiry into this summer’s disruption when station staff were kept in the dark about cancelled services – and the knock-on consequences for the passengers that they were trying to assist.
If travellers are kept better informed, they will be understanding when delays arise from pre-planned engineering work or unforeseen incidents. Yet, judging by public criticism of the inadequate social media updates offered by East Coast operator LNER, Northern, TransPennine Express and Hull Trains, there’s much to do before the industry is ready for the King’s Cross hiatus.