Why is my train shorter than normal?

Tuesday, 28 August 2018
Your journey

We know how frustrating it is when your train turns up and it’s shorter than normal, making it more crowded than usual. We don’t like to run shorter trains any more than you do, but sometimes we think it’s better than cancelling the service altogether. Here we try to explain why your train is sometimes shorter than normal.

What is a short form?

A train that is shorter than usual is called a “short form”. With our Norwich to London intercity trains, sometimes we have to remove a carriage, making them shorter than usual. Our long commuter trains are made up of one or two shorter trains coupled together to make one long train. If we are unable to couple together the usual amount of trains, we end up with a shorter train than usual. Unfortunately, this means there are fewer seats than usual, which makes rush-hour trains overcrowded – we are very sorry for the inconvenience this causes.

What causes a short form?

A short form is usually because a train or carriage is out of action. This might be due to a fault or due to damage. Or it might be because the train is undergoing one of its routine service checks.

There are very strict safety guidelines for train maintenance, which is one of the reasons the British railway is the safest in Europe. This work is taking a little longer than usual as 70 per cent of our Norwich Crown Point depot is being modernised. We’re sending our intercity trains for light maintenance to a depot near London and coach maintenance has been transferred to our Ilford depot. Our Class 321 Essex commuter trains are now being maintained in Clacton. Fortunately, we hired an extra 20 commuter trains to increase our capacity and improve our service resilience while this is going on.

If you use the Southend line, then you’re aware of the mid-week engineering works that Network Rail is doing to put in modern weather-proof overhead wires. Unfortunately, if there’s disruption on these days, we sometimes can’t get enough trains back to Southend in time for the morning rush-hour, which results in short forms in the morning. We are sorry about this.

There’s a nationwide shortage of diesel trains at the moment, so so whereas in the past we’ve been able to hire one from elsewhere if one of ours becomes damaged or develops a fault, it’s a lot more difficult to replace them now.

What are you doing to prevent short forms?

Our award-winning engineers are working as hard as they can to fix and service our trains as quickly as possible. Some of our trains are over 30 years old – and earlier this year we had problems getting parts as one of our suppliers folded.

We’ve had a few problems with our refurbished Class 321 commuter trains, which run in Essex. We’ve worked closely with the suppliers and they sent over some of their engineers from Germany to find the root of the problem and develop a lasting solution, which is being rolled out now. The problems with these trains are those typically seen with any new technology roll out.

We’ve recently been working on improving the reliability of our Class 317 Cambridge commuter trains, so hopefully you’ve already noticed the difference. You can find out more about this by watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwuVaDMz5tw 

Meanwhile, our engineers are working flat out to repair our diesel trains and get them running so that we don’t have to cancel many more services.

From next year, we’re replacing every single one of our current trains with brand new trains, which will be longer, with more seats and more reliable. It will also be much easier to source parts for them, should they break down.

Can I get compensation for travelling on a shorter train?

We really are sorry if you’ve been inconvenienced by shorter trains and the overcrowding they can cause. Delay repay compensation is available if you have delayed by 30 minutes or more, whatever the size of the train.

How can I find out if my train is shorter than usual before I arrive at the station?

We publish information about which trains are shorter than normal on JourneyCheck. We’re currently looking to see how we can make it more prominent. You can sign up for automatic alerts to your inbox via www.greateranglia.co.uk/journeycheck.