Two months ago the news concerned the government wanting us to return to workplaces.

Most train companies were returning to near-normal schedules after earlier cut backs.

Unfortunately as we all know things did not work out exactly as planned.

UK rail to cut services

Mainline trains tended to have lots and lots of empty seats as Channel 4 presenter Matt Frei discovered last month.

Under lockdown mainline travel is only for business or essential purposes so mainline services will be emptier than ever.

And travel patterns have changed. Before the latest lockdown we saw that leisure had returned more strongly than corporate travel.

UK rail sees changing travel patterns

For that reason some rail experts say that peak hour pricing ought to be suspended to fill sparsely occupied services.

A few days ago both open access Grand Central and Hull Trains suspended services.

There had been no developments from the train operators or TOCs until I was alerted to this message on Avanti West Coast’s website.

“We’re making changes to our timetables which will affect our Manchester and Birmingham routes from Saturday November 14.  It’s really important you check before you travel.”

Schedules posted online show Avanti West Coast operating fewer trains on both routes from that date.

For example, London-Manchester displays two, rather than three trains an hour.

What about other routes? Will services return to normal after lockdown?

It also appears rail operators are factoring in anticipated staff shortages when reducing services – Avanti West Coast has provided Business Traveller with the following statement:

“Whilst we’re not seeing it [reduced staff numbers] at the moment, we want to ensure our service continues to be resilient if we have rising staff absence.

“We’ve seen reduced passenger demand over recent weeks so we are able to change our timetable whilst still ensuring we can meet the social distancing needs of customers.

“We’ll continue to serve all our other routes and destinations with roughly the same timetable as we’re running now, and we’d always recommend checking our website before travel.”