Short-formed trains every morning

Since the new timetable started at the end of May, the 0819 from Guildford to Waterloo has mostly arrived with 8 carriages although there are still 12 carriages of passengers, so that the service is dangerously overcrowded every morning.

Please can you explain why this is happening and when will it end? Do you have enough rolling stock to run this service now? Or should we catch another train instead? It would be useful to receive a reply with some information on this, please.

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  • Guildford, 03.07.2019

    Dear Anne Milton MP,


    Since the introduction of the new SWR timetable in May, my 0819 train to London, and many other services, have frequently arrived in short formation. 

    This leaves 12 coaches of passengers having to board a 6 or 8 coach train, with 25-50 people standing in each carriage. This is both uncomfortable and unsafe.

    I put an enquiry into the Southwestern Railway customer forum a month ago, asking why this was happening and when this would end. There has been no reply.

    An educated guess states that the company is presently refurbishing a number of its trains and has therefore taken a significant amount of rolling stock out of service. 

    However, rather than cancel trains where the number of carriages available is insufficient, which would then result in targets failing to be met and customer compensation being payable, or indeed rather than bringing additional rolling stock into operation as replacements, the company has instead decided to spread the loss of carriages over a number of its regular services.

    Although this leaves those many short-formed trains very uncomfortable for passengers and also routinely dangerous to travel in, commercially the approach works well for the train company because costs are saved and operational metrics are seen to be met. 

    However, this approach represents a cynical manipulation of the existing performance criteria, which leaves many passengers unnecessarily suffering uncomfortable journeys while also being exposed daily to the significant safety risks that routine standing brings.

    This is simply no way to run a railway.

    I have five recommendations:

    1. The government should investigate and intervene to force the train company to obtain and deploy sufficient rolling stock for its advertised timetable.

    2. Passenger compensation should be made payable on all short-formed trains. This will force the company to think twice about cynically disregarding passengers. This step is easy to implement immediately, as we know that the company keeps a record of its short-formed trains.

    3. Better information should be provided, with short-formed trains advertised in advance and passengers notified via the company website the day before. This will allow passengers to plan to avoid the overcrowded services. The company will say that it is operationally difficult to predict which services will be affected, but in fact we know that all aspects of rolling stock movement have to be rigorously planned in advance, so that this information is certainly available.

    4. The number of short-formed trains should be made a rail franchise performance metric in the same way as late and cancelled trains.

    5. Finally, and most importantly, urgent consideration should be given to transferring the Southwestern Railway franchise to a customer-oriented company which is capable of running a competent service meeting passenger expectations while prioritising the safety of passengers travelling on its network.

    Many thanks and kind regards,

    [ Chalk Farm]
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