Britain’s railway operators have begun to cancel hundreds of daily trains as the Omicron isolation crises deepens. This follows weeks of cancellations on short notice due to sick workers or Covid-19 self-isolation.

In response to staff shortages, 23 UK railway companies (Southern to ScotRail, Great Western Railway to Northern) have reduced or planned to reduce their services in the near future.

The East Midlands Railway and Thameslink are also affected. 

Rail Delivery Group reported that nearly one-tenth of all UK railway staff (9.9%) was off sick due to Covid. This increase is compared to 8.7 percent last week and 7.6per cent last month.

CrossCountry is also disrupted for passengers travelling across the UK today, New Year’s Eve. The strike action involved senior conductors and train managers in a dispute over guards. 

Rail companies have had to cancel trains in a hurry over the past weeks due to unwell staff or self-isolation. To make it more clear about the services that will operate, many companies have published condensed timestamps.

It is happening despite last week’s reduction in the time required to self-isolate England for anyone who has failed a negative flow test during their quarantine period.

Even though ministers are refusing to accept the notion, there has been growing support for reducing the five-day isolation period to ensure that essential services remain safe from shortages.

Due to shortages of staff, almost 20 train services were cancelled. One third of London’s fire engines is off the roads. There are up to 875,000 UK residents who must remain inside after test positive.

Numerous vital NHS workers have also been left to their own devices. Staff shortages in the social and health care sectors are causing severe problems. Hospitals and care homes will be unable and unwilling to accommodate new patients.

A number of industries are experiencing increased absences due to the crisis. The NHS and business leaders have warned that Britain is at risk from being brought to a complete standstill through a surge in cases and shortages of tests and the seven-day quarantine.

Nearly one million people are currently at home. Restaurants have had to close, and delivery trucks were hit hard by “astronomical” numbers of sick employees who contracted the Omicron strain. 

The Government is under increasing pressure to get more testing done, given the high demand for tests and the global shortage of supply. Wales has provided four million quick lateral flow kits to England’s NHS. This is:  

  • Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will determine next week whether new regulations to restrict indoor socializing are necessary.
  • Yesterday, another 189.213 cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK. This was an all-time high.
  • NHS leaders said that the Government needs to impose tighter restrictions as soon as possible, if necessary.
  • The pharmacy chiefs stated that more lateral flow test kits are now being made available, but there is still a shortage.
  • On December 26, total of 4,580 NHS employees in London hospital trusts were absent due to Covid-19.
  • Last ditch appeal by the Scottish Government to Scots not to attend large-scale New Years Eve parties was made by the Scottish Government.

Rail Delivery Group stated that operators are ‘working hard’ to offer reliable service, despite reduced staff and amended schedules ‘due to less train demand’.  

This graphic by Project Mapping shows the UK rail network split by operators - most of whom are experiencing staffing issues

Project Mapping’s graphic shows how the UK railway network is divided by its operators. Most of these operators are having staffing problems.

Passengers walk through London King's Cross station this morning after arriving on an LNER train from Edinburgh

After arriving by LNER train in Edinburgh, passengers walk to London King’s Cross Station.

Train passengers walk through ticket barriers at London King's Cross railway station this morning on New Year's Eve

On New Year’s Eve, train passengers walk past ticket barriers at London King’s Cross railway station.

This graphic shows the planned Southern closures until January 4 - a period that has now been extended until January 10

This graphic displays the Southern closures scheduled for January 4th – an extended period of time which has been extended to January 10th

Anthony Smith, the chief executive officer of Transport Focus said that this was a practical response to staff sickness. Services must be available to those who need them, particularly key employees in the sector.

“These include providing sufficient capacity for passengers to travel safely apart and making sure the updated timetable is accurate and reliable.

The impact of Covid-related staff shortages on train services throughout the UK

  • Avanti West CoastIt states that it does everything possible to meet our timetable, but may need to cancel at short notice. All peak restrictions lifted until January 4.
  • c2c: Normal service.
  • Caledonian Sleeper: Normal service.
  • Chiltern Railways: An operator advises the company that they may need to alter their timetable to accommodate Covid-19’s ‘impact on train crews’
  • CrossCountry: Edited its schedules to remove approximately 50 trains between January 8 and 8. Also warns about disruptions “until further notice”. RMT strike: Reminds passengers not to travel after midnight on New Years Eve.
  • East Midlands RailwayRevision of the timetable because of a “high degree” staff sickness (including drivers) Some services will be replaced by buses.
  • Eurostar: Normal service.
  • Gatwick ExpressServices are not available ‘until further notification’ due to the ‘ongoing effects of coronavirus isolution and sickness’
  • Grand Central: Normal service.
  • Great NorthernDue to the “significant ongoing impact of coronavirus (especially in terms staff sickness),” all services will be reduced on all routes “until further notification”.
  • Great Western Railway– Cancellations due ‘rising staff ineligible to work’.
  • Greater AngliaServices were removed due to declining passenger numbers.
  • Heathrow Express: Normal service.
  • Hull TrainsTo’minimise disruption’, a temporary schedule will be in effect until February 12.
  • LNERTimetable reduced to January 7, ‘due a shortage in train crew due to an increase of staff self-isolating using Covid-19’.
  • London Northwestern RailwayService cancellations and modifications are possible due to shortage of train driver.
  • Lumo: Normal service.
  • MerseyrailThe ‘impact of Covid-19 or other illness affecting the availability of staff’ has caused some trains to be cancelled.
  • Northern: Operating’several altered timetables’ due to ‘Covid’ and its effect on the availability for our train crew.
  • ScotRailIt means that we are unable to set a timetable until January 28, as our coworkers continue to get sick from Covid-19.
  • South Western RailwayServices are subject to “short-term changes” due to the “impact of Omicron variant staff numbers on employees”, with a new timetable starting in January 17.
  • Southeastern: Warnings about the possibility of services being changed due to illness or isolation from Covid-19.
  • SouthernA raft of services have been cancelled and the hub at London Victoria station has been closed for several days due to the’significant ongoing coronavirus effect’.
  • Stansted ExpressRunning half an hour
  • ThameslinkDue to the “significant ongoing impact of coronavirus (especially in terms staff sickness),” all services will be reduced on all routes “until further notification”.
  • TransPennine ExpressService cancellations may occur at short notice due to a shortage of staff.
  • Transport for LondonThere are delays in Bakerloo, Metropolitan line service due to cancellations.
  • Transport for Greater ManchesterMetrolink’s services are being reduced due to Covid-19’s increasing effect on the tram driver workforce levels.
  • Transport for Wales: Emergency timetable to “prepare to an expected increase in staff shortages as a result of the Omicron variation’
  • West Midlands RailwayNote: Trains may be cancelled due to inability of colleagues to travel.

ScotRail stated that it will implement a temporary weekday timetable starting Tuesday, January 28. This is because the Omicron version has led to a large amount of absences.

There will be more than 150 services cut daily, on routes like Glasgow to Edinburgh via Airdrie/Bathgate and Glasgow Central to Lanark. Edinburgh to North Berwick is also affected.

South Western Railway has announced that it will implement a new schedule starting January 17, as Omicron had an ‘important impact’ on its services.

In a statement, the operator stated that they are focusing on creating a schedule that can be delivered so our customers have more reliability. It also caters to school students, key workers and people who cannot work remotely.

The company has yet to disclose which services will be cut.

SWR said it was suffering a shortage of staff ‘across our business’ such as drivers, guards, engineers and controllers.

It warned that passengers could be subject to cancellations with short notice.

To improve reliability, the plan would include a shorter timetable starting on January 17,

Greater Anglia has announced that it will no longer operate 70 weekday services in the next week because of staff shortages and ‘falling passengers numbers.

The following routes will be affected: Norwich to London Liverpool Street; Colchester and Ipswich. Cambridge to Ipswich. Norwich to Great Yarmouth. 

Today saw thousands of passengers on trains lose their plans after Southern Rail cancelled many services. The company also said that the hub at London Victoria Station would be closed for another ten day.

Network Rail engineers closed some lines to and from Britain’s second busiest railway station during the Christmas holiday period. Reduced services were routed to London Bridge, and are scheduled to reopen in January.

Southern said that the Gatwick Express and Southern services to London Victoria, Battersea Park or Clapham Junction will not be available until January 10, 2021, the beginning of the second week.

According to the operator, there would be a reduction in service on all routes ‘until further notification owing to significant ongoing coronavirus impact’. This is said amid high levels staff sickness and worker self-isolation.

Twitter fury erupted after this decision was made.

Other critics called Southern the “worst-run train company in the country”, and said it is a “chronically overstaffed”. They tweeted, “Happy New Years from Southern”: It was impossible for Southern to reach work. So, they will be taking annual leave.

Southern managers discussed the shutting downs ahead of time with trade unions. The level services will be reviewed for the week following January 10th. Sources said that it was changing day by day.

Customer still wanting to travel advised that tickets can be used by other companies such as Transport for London, London Underground and others.

Southern did not announce any new closures yesterday. The update was an extension to the existing changes that were in effect until January 4. Customers are advised not to use London Bridge, Blackfriars or Thameslink and to then travel underground to Victoria as needed. 

Great Northern, Thameslink, Hull Trains all have lower timetables.

CrossCountry removed approximately 50 trains from their timetables, Mondays through Saturdays, from December 27, to January 8.

On New Year’s Eve, the industrial action that affected the company involved train managers and senior conductors fighting over their role as guards.

CrossCountry stated that passengers are strongly advised to change their travel plans in order to avoid being stranded.

There are no trains operating between the following locations: Aberdeen, Edinburgh; Glasgow Central and Edinburgh. Derby and Nottingham. Peterborough and Stansted. Cheltenham Spa. Cardiff Central. Newton Abbot. Paignton. Plymouth.



There is a ‘heavily reduced’ service between Edinburgh, Plymouth and Manchester Piccadilly; Bournemouth, Bournemouth, and Birmingham New Street. 

Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said that the virus had impacted colleagues in the same way as those working in other sectors.

‘While we’re striving to offer a reliable train service to key staff and other passengers with reduced personnel, some railway companies are changing their timetables to meet the lower demand.

RMT employees at Gate Gourmet today joined a strike at Edinburgh Waverley for New Year’s Eve as part of an ongoing dispute about bullying allegations.

Mick Lynch, RMT’s general secretary said that the New Year’s Eve strike disruption was caused by greedy companies operating on railways. They are trying to make every dollar possible and reducing safety, employment, dignity in work.

CrossCountry’s members as well as Gate Gourmet, are fighting for the rights of all railway workers. We expect to see a torrential attack on job, pay, safety and conditions, in 2022. We’re ready to take action and campaign on every front in the new year.