A transport watchdog has challenged a rail company over its failure to prevent crowding on trains.

Transport Focus wrote to Great Western Railway (GWR) asking for assurances about the efforts being made to avoid trains running with fewer carriages than required, which is allegedly leading to crowding.

The watchdog claims that passengers on the rail company’s high speed and West of England services have had to deal with the consequences of short-formed trains for “far too long.”

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Figures returned to Transport Focus by the rail company show the gap between the number of seats declared on services by GWR and the number of actual seats available when the train showed up.

Over the last year, the London to Cotswolds service, which stops at Oxford, Hanborough, Charlbury and Kingham, fell short of its declared seat numbers by 155,944.

This figure was deduced from the GWR data which shows the company declared there would be 3,799,690 seats over the course of all trains on this route over the course of the year, but in reality only 3,643,746 seats were available.

The data also shows the number of booked seats by passengers to be 4,373,319, with just 3,910,915 actual seats being taken.

In the letter addressed to the managing director of the rail company, Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith wrote: “Passengers on both high speed and west services have had to deal with the consequences of short-formed trains leading to overcrowding and in some cases cancelled reservations for far too long.

“We are aware that GWR is pressing Hitachi to improve fleet availability, but there continue to be large numbers of shortened trains.

“Details on the performance page of the GWR website suggest that London-South Wales, London-Cotswolds, and South Wales South Coast are most affected by short-formations.

“Please would you assure me about the measures you are taking to improve fleet availability and reduce short-formations?”

In response, GWR’s managing director Mark Hopwood wrote: “Our aim has been to try to make reductions without impacting services.

“That has come in part from reducing our fleet in order to make savings in lease costs.

“Reducing the size of our fleet was not an easy decision to make, however it does mean that we were able to avoid wholescale timetable reductions, which would also impact capacity and give customers less flexibility.

“It should be noted that Nuneham viaduct closure had a large impact on short formation figures on London to Cotswolds services in period one and two.

“I do not want to give you the impression that there are any easy fixes to the position we find ourselves in.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1