The pandemic has taken its toll on rail services at the British capital’s second busiest station, with a key operator suspending all its trains to Victoria London, citing coronavirus-related staff absences.
Govia Thameslink Railway has said its Southern Railway services to and from Victoria – to places such as Southampton, Brighton and Eastbourne – will be suspended until January 10.
Its other services, on Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink routes, would run until further notice on a reduced weekday schedule because so many staff were self-isolated or ill with Covid-19.
Gatwick Express, which runs between the airport and London Victoria, will remain suspended after being closed for engineering over the Christmas period.
The cancellations highlight how the rapid spread of the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant has disrupted sectors across the economy.
Angie Doll, Interim Chief Operating Officer at GTR, said: “Due to the significant challenges we face with Covid now affecting many of our colleagues, we decided to operate a reduced train timetable from January. We are really sorry if it does affect your trip. ”
Other rail operators – including Avanti West Coast, Greater Anglia, London North Eastern Railway, Northern, ScotRail, TransPennine Express and Transport for Wales – have been forced to cancel trains or adjust services as staffing issues bite.
In the seven days to December 29, the average staff absence at all train companies was 8.9 per cent and about one in 20 trains was canceled, according to the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators in the UK. This is almost double the normal level.
“Our staff work in difficult circumstances and, like everyone else, they are susceptible to the virus,” the RDG said. “We may not be able to run every train we have planned and there may be changes to some services.”
On Wednesday, daily Covid-19 cases rose to 183,037 in the UK, including new records for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
England has reduced the period of self-isolation to seven days in an effort to limit disruption to public services, but ministers have resisted pressure to follow the US to reduce it to five days.
As part of the temporary cancellation of Southern services to London Victoria, no trains will stop at Battersea Park, Clapham Junction or Wandsworth Common stations and certain services will instead be diverted to London Bridge.
Some rail operators are also facing a challenge in managing services due to union action. The RMT union has confirmed that strikes will take place on Friday on CrossCountry Trains and by workers at Edinburgh Waverley station.
Elsewhere, the freight rail network has been hit by a separate issue that could exacerbate the country’s supply chain problems. Metro Shipping, a logistics group, said a train derailment at London Gateway harbor caused rail services from one of the UK’s largest container hubs to be suspended, putting further pressure on road freight.
DP World, which operates the terminal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.