Short-changed by short trains: More than 3,000 Northern services run with missing carriages in just four weeks

A Northern train pulls into Harrogate station
A Northern train pulls into Harrogate station
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The number of ‘short-formed’ trains run by under-fire operator Northern with fewer carriages than promised has doubled since last year, according to figures seen by The Yorkshire Post.

Nearly 3,300 of its trains across the North, 6.4 per cent of the total, were reduced in length in the month after the botched introduction of a new timetable on May 20 led to widespread delays and cancellations.

The total between May 27 and June 23 compares with 2,075 short-formed trains for the previous four weeks and 1,599 in the corresponding period in 2017. TransPennine Express ran only 12 short-formed trains in four weeks.

Some 1,529 Northern trains were short-formed on Yorkshire services in the most recent four-week period, representing nearly a tenth of the total in some parts of the region.

The “unacceptable” figures have prompted calls for a review into the way services are managed, as train lengths are agreed when franchises are awarded to operators by the Government.

It comes a month after The Yorkshire Post and 24 other northern newspapers joined forces to call on the Prime Minister to take action over the Northern timetable chaos. Commuters were dealt a further blow last night when rail union RMT announced another day of strike action on July 21 on Northern services.

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Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Rail passengers are being hit twice over through cancelled services and trains with reduced capacity. Trains that are missing carriages lead to overcrowded services and passengers left on platforms, both of which are totally unacceptable.

“The current franchises are designed to increase capacity and service frequency but those aims are undermined if services do not have the agreed number of carriages.

“We have been clear with the rail operators that returning the services to normal requires both restoring a full timetable and operating trains to the length specified by the franchises.”

According to Northern’s figures, 3,287 trains were shortened in the most recent four-week period, including 464, 9.2 per cent of the total, on West and North Yorkshire inter-urban services.

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: “I’m really concerned to hear about the increased number of short-form trains across the northern rail network.

“At a time when Arriva Rail North is cancelling so many trains, this extra squeeze on rail capacity by the company will feel like further insult being added to injury for passengers.”

Steve Chambers of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Overcrowding is adding to the misery caused by timetable disruptions and delays. Passengers are facing these conditions day after day and the effect on their quality of life is getting serious.

“We want to see a full independent review of the way in which the Department for Transport manages rail franchises, and a commitment to future investment, especially in the North of England. Only then will people have faith that the recent chaos will not be repeated.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is expected to endure further criticism over his handling of the fiasco today when he takes questions from MPs.

Among those hoping to ask a question is Bradford South MP Judith Cummins, who plans to call on Mr Grayling to “respond properly to the One North campaign, and commit to giving Transport for the North the full powers and funding it needs to deliver the changes we need.”

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I won’t sit back while yet more money is lavished on transport in the south, as we in the North are treated as an afterthought at best. The Government must realise we won’t put up or shut up about this - give the North the funding and powers it needs to get moving.”