East Midlands Railway (EMR) has said it will increase the number of seats available at busy times during the weekend.
However, the train operator is currently running a reduced Sunday service because of strike action that is not currently taking place and has said it is adding extra seats to some trains to compensate.
EMR said that as part of the annual December timetable change, ‘and in response to emerging trends’, it will strengthen some of its weekend Intercity services where demand has returned strongly.
It said a detailed analysis across all days against current formations on all services to and from London highlighted a number of weekend services where strengthening was required, ‘as well as a few weekday services too’.
Operations director Paul Barnfield said: ‘Over the past six months we have seen demand rise quickly in separate and specific areas of our timetable, with weekend services proving to be popular. Following detailed analysis, we have identified some key services which we can strengthen – helping to offer passengers more seats at the times they want.’
The move reflects a shift in passenger demand from commuting to leisure travel and concerns in the industry that a lack of seats on off-peak trains could put off passengers who find themselves standing.
This week new statistics showed that the number of daily rail journeys has fallen to 55% of pre-Covid levels.
EMR said that as part of the December timetable it is also reinstating 22 regional services. The timetable increase will be delivered in two stages, with the majority of services being reinstated from this week (Monday 13 December) and a smaller increase from 3 January, 'as customers return to work and education'.
The firm added that it will be operating 486 trains per day from 3 January - 87 more than it its final pre-Covid timetable.
In the meantime, however, EMR is running a reduced Sunday timetable in response to long-running industrial action by members of the RMT union. It said that, although the industrial action is suspended, it is 'not possible to reinstate our full Sunday timetable' because of uncertainty over whether the action might resume.
This has meant that some passengers who had tickets booked for specific trains have seen them vanish from the timetable.
Separately South Western Railway (SWR) has said it will run two trains per hour on the Isle of Wight’s Island Line during peak periods from Monday (20 December).
It said the service uplift is ‘designed to cater to local schools in the New Year and, once current restrictions lift, commuters, representing a stepping stone towards the full half-hourly service which is committed to deliver’.
The firm said that since the line reopened on 1 November it has run one train per hour to match low customer demand, synchronise with the scaled-back ferry timetable and make the return to service as smooth as possible.
It added that ‘having bedded in an effective and efficient service [it] is now in a position to increase the number of trains during the peak’.
Commercial projects director Alex Foulds said: ‘As well as ensuring that we match capacity and demand, these changes will give a boost to the Island’s transport network, offering enhanced connectivity and better integrated public transport.
‘Following the biggest upgrade to the Island Line in decades, today’s announcement marks an important milestone on our journey towards implementing the full timetable.’