Why is my train shorter than normal?

Published on: Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Last updated: Wednesday, 5 December 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 like catching them, 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 and Suffolk commuter trains are now being maintained in Clacton.

There’s a nationwide shortage of diesel trains at the moment, 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.

In recent weeks, there has been a shortage of our Class 321 Essex and Suffolk commuter trains, as some of them have been out of service undergoing major refurbishment and some have been out of action due to faults. Some of our intercity trains have been shorter than usual due to operational constraints at Ilford depot which meant that all nine carriages couldn’t be serviced at the same time . Both of these situations are due to ease very soon, as a solution has been found at Ilford so we can service a complete intercity train in one go and the Class 321 refurbishment project is nearing completion.

What are you doing to prevent short forms?

We work as hard as we can to fix the trains as quickly as possible – and we are confident you should have noticed that things have already started to get better.

Autumn can be a difficult time of year for the railway because of the damaging slippery rail conditions. Leaves compressed on the tracks are as slippery as black ice on the roads, which affects braking and accelerating and can sometimes damage wheels, taking a train out of service. The precautions we’ve taken along with Network Rail have improved performance compared to previous autumns, but it still causes us problems sometimes.

We’ve tried to minimise the impact of autumn and the Class 321 Essex and Suffolk commuter train refurbishment project on the whole network, by reducing the size of eight services for seven weeks. These were selected because they weren’t running at full capacity and so could withstand being temporarily short formed. They will all go back to their previous lengths when the December timetable starts on Sunday 9 December.

We really are sorry, as we understand the inconvenience shorter trains and cancellations cause to our customers, which is why we always try to fix problems as quickly as we can.

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