The rail industry has been urged to make sure there is no repeat of the chaos that occurred when the network’s timetable changed last May.
The latest changes were due to take effect from Sunday, but many travellers were not likely to be impacted until they head off for work or elsewhere on Monday.
Last May, during one of the two annual timetable changes, people using trains faced weeks of disruption across large parts of the country.
Many services were cancelled and a report into the disruption released last September by the industry regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), found the problems occurred because the changes relied on the successful completion of a “not… typical” range of large infrastructure projects.
A further report in December by the regulator found that because “nobody took control” at the time, there was a potential for a repeat of the failings.
The ORR then issued a Final Order to Network Rail in January requiring it to implement future changes in an “efficient and effective” way.
On the eve of this year’s changes having potentially their greatest impact, Darren Shirley, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The railway has a long way to go to win back passenger confidence, but we hope that the lessons of last year have been learnt and the introduction of the new timetable on Sunday will improve people’s perceptions of the railways, rather than further damaging them.
“In the event that things do go wrong, we would expect the rail industry to have a robust contingency plan so that passengers aren’t left stranded again.”
A total of 25 rail operators are making changes to their timetables, with the biggest changes occurring on South Western Railway, Southeastern, Southern, Northern and Great Northern.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents Network Rail and the passenger rail firms, said lessons were learned after the problems last year, adding that changes were only being made where there was a “high confidence” the necessary infrastructure, rolling stock and staffing plans were ready.
RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Introducing 1,000 more services a week to meet demand on a congested network poses a significant challenge but we are working together to ensure improvements are introduced with the absolute minimum of disruption.”
After thousands of travellers had journeys cancelled or delayed last year, the chief executive of Govia Thameslink Group, Charles Horton, resigned.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also faced stinging criticism, for being the minister in charge during a further mishap.