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Last updated: 05:49

Addressing the challenges of COVID

What’s happening with the rail service?

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a significant increase in Covid cases amongst staff, on top of people taking time off sick due to the side effects of the booster jab and seasonal illnesses. Omicron is having a very large impact on colleagues, as seen across the rest of the rail and transport industry.

During this challenging time, we’re doing our best to run a reliable service that people can depend upon, using the resources we have available.

Our trains are running on a temporary, reduced timetable. We have used customer and stakeholder feedback to protect and add as many additional trains as possible for key workers and schools.

There are, of course, far fewer people travelling due to Omicron and the work-from-home directive but the reduction in frequency and temporary diversion of some services could affect your journey.

What does that mean for me?

Our customers tell us they want a reliable service, not lots of last-minute cancellations and that has always been at the heart of our decision making. That means that the timetable may have temporarily changed for your journey and we encourage you to check before you travel. The temporary timetable we have in place today ensures services are as reliable as possible when fewer staff are available. We’re really sorry if this affects your journey.

Why do some towns not have their direct trains to London Victoria?

We’re running the maximum number of services possible into Victoria on the temporary timetable. This is a short-term measure to help us keep a reliable service running while so many of our colleagues are affected by COVID and the variant Omicron. To keep as many services running as possible, this means some services are temporarily diverted into London Bridge. We know some of our customers may have to change trains along the way. We’re very sorry about this. We’re working to restore these links as soon as possible.

When will services change again?

With several factors likely to have an impact on demand levels in a short period of time, we have brought in a service we can confidently resource, and we’ll review the situation week by week so that we can make adjustments where possible. Aside from ongoing COVID cases, external factors include: an expected update from Government regarding the continuation of ‘Plan B’ guidance and restrictions on 26 January; February half term school holidays; and a nine-day closure of part of the Brighton Mainline from 19-27 February.

How do I know what’s running?

Online journey planners such as have all the temporary train times in them, with the exception of those to London Victoria from Crystal Palace, Bognor Regis, Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton Central that need to be added at the end of each week. This allows you to plan ahead, although we’ll obviously keep the situation under review, and make adjustments where possible.

Why is Gatwick Express suspended?

Given the rapid shift in situation with Omicron, we have decided to focus our efforts on keeping Southern services running as best as possible until the situation improves. Gatwick Express teams will instead support Southern as they have so well over the past year and you may see their trains operating as Southern services too.