Why are some train lengths so short?

Skipness

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This overcrowding of XC services has been a topic on this forum before and a suggested solution was running more HST set surplus from GWR and LNER.
I readily acknowledge that the HST design is forty years old, but they can still rival modern designs for reliability. Also the running of diesels under the wires on the east coast main line, and their acceleration compared to a Voyager.
But they do provide seven coaches, and would enable the Voyagers to run as coupled sets.
Leasing costs should acknowledge that the HSTs should by now have paid off their initial costs.

Written as a regular user of the Scotland to SW core route.
 
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sprinterguy

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This overcrowding of XC services has been a topic on this forum before and a suggested solution was running more HST set surplus from GWR and LNER.
I readily acknowledge that the HST design is forty years old, but they can still rival modern designs for reliability. Also the running of diesels under the wires on the east coast main line, and their acceleration compared to a Voyager.
But they do provide seven coaches, and would enable the Voyagers to run as coupled sets.
Leasing costs should acknowledge that the HSTs should by now have paid off their initial costs.

Written as a regular user of the Scotland to SW core route.
Crosscountry have already changed over to an all-power door fitted HST fleet, so additional sets would need that work undertaken to start with. Not a quick job.
 

Grecian 1998

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You missed:

• Doesn't go near London so DFT don't give a damn about it
And it isn't perceived to belong to a single geographic area so no urban area transport authority is pressing for improvements to its services.

The train was fully packed all the way and thankfully I reserved seats, however when we decided to do a return trip from Exeter to Bristol, I paid £40 Each for the privilege of having to stand by the toilet. we where packed in like sardines.. it was awful.
Exeter-Bristol generally isn't too bad out of peak hours - I've travelled over the route on Voyagers hundreds of times over the last decade (mainly on Saturdays but also plenty of Sundays and weekday evenings) and never found getting a seat a problem out of peak times or on certain trains on Sundays. Usually there's standing between Taunton and Bristol on the 0723 from Exeter and 1711 from Bristol but that's about it.

The anytime standard class return fare was about £35 last October and the off-peak return fare about £30 so not sure how it cost £40 each. Splitting tickets at Taunton where everything bar one train a week stops gets the price down further without restricting flexibility.

TPE are now lengthening the majority of their services to 5 carriages and Liverpool to Edinburgh services via Manchester and Darlo will mostly have 5 carriage trains with over 300 standard class seats. Still a work in progress though.


Some of those routes may have been sparse, but the core route Bristol-Birmingham-Northeast was pretty regular...………..just sitting on the wall at Dawlish and watching trains stream through every four or five minutes, a large proportion XC, was enough to prove that.

A quick check of my rather tatty September 1991 May 1992 BR timetable shows that on both weekdays and Saturdays there were a grand total of 10 trains a day each way from points north of Birmingham to Plymouth / Cornwall, one to Paignton and a sleeper from Scotland (abolished at privatisation as no-one would have wanted to run it). This included a 2 hour gap south of Bristol in each direction in the late morning. Not terribly regular. Several trains also skipped multiple stations e.g. the Cornishman stopped only at Bristol Temple Meads and Exeter St Davids between Birmingham and Plymouth. Great if you like trains with quirky non-stop patterns, but not much use to users of Cheltenham, Bristol Parkway (serving North Bristol) or Taunton.


Getting back OT, there is a general consensus here that 4 coach Voyagers are too small. This is also a view which seems to be shared by the general public in my experience. However XC haven't had any new stock since 2008 on their 'intercity' routes save for 2 driving vehicles allowing them to create 4 x 4 coach trains to replace 2 x 5. Not a massive difference. The DfT seem in no hurry to do anything. More 125mph DMUs may become available in a few years time, but I wouldn't expect any changes until then as there's no political pressure demanding that something is done about XC's capacity.
 
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There are some peak Scotrail trains that should best be avoided on the Ayrshire Coast.

0642 Largs - Glasgow Arrive 0742 - 3 carriages and relatively full
1630 Glasgow - Largs - 3 carriages and full

Then you see Ayr going out with 6 and 7 car. Personally some of those could really benefit the line to Largs at peak time
 

SWT_USER

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My impression of cross-country in BR days was that it was largely a collection of routes, locos and coaches that none of the more prestigious sectors wanted, with a timetable more determined by available paths than making a cohesive system.
In the early days of privatisation, Virgin decided rightly that this wouldn't do, and began Operation Princess, introducing new rolling stock to routes that had only ever had hand-me-downs. Replacing 8 - 10 coach trains at 1tph or less with 4 or 5 coach trains at clock-face half hourly intervals looked reasonable, but the provision of brand new and more frequent trains revealed suppressed demand that has never since been adequately met.
It might have been possible to lengthen the trains in the early years, but before very long the Voyager production line had been dismantled, making additional coaches unavailable. Plus by then the DfT had control of the franchise and the finances, and decided that Cross Country's unfortunate passengers would have to put up with overcrowding for years to come.
Unfortunately lessons haven't been learned as this is exactly what is happening on GWR. Overcrowded 5 carriage trains running in to Paddington replacing 8 coach HST's as there are rarely enough available units to run 9/ 10 coach trains.
 

tomwills98

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In South Wales there's only five car sets sent out to London if there's a fault with one of the trains, I'd rather a five car sent out instead of it being cancelled outright. The only exception being the Swansea-Carmarthen trains that split at Swansea. Has GWR actually timetabled a five car set in place of a HST?
 

Killingworth

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Sheffield's No 1 Platform has taken trains up to 16 coaches in days gone by, and probably longer in wartime when they'd extend out of the platform altogether.

Today TPE's 6 coach trains can fit in the north end, 1b, but there's no space for more if the south end is used as well. Eastbound South Pennine trains normally go into 1b.
IMG_20200306_101146.jpg
The stopping Hope Valley service uses 7 or 1a in the evening when it's boosted to a double unit. 1a is often used for a slow Northern service waiting to follow the TPE or XC 4 or 5 car unit. Longer XC trains use 2.

To make full use of all station space for longer trains it may be necessary to consider more mid platform crossovers as well as longer platforms.
 

VT 390

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In South Wales there's only five car sets sent out to London if there's a fault with one of the trains, I'd rather a five car sent out instead of it being cancelled outright. The only exception being the Swansea-Carmarthen trains that split at Swansea. Has GWR actually timetabled a five car set in place of a HST?
There are some services which used to be a HST but are now 5 carriage 800/802 operated such as the 2 morning Paddington to Herefords and returns.
 

Taunton

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This overcrowding of XC services has been a topic on this forum before and a suggested solution was running more HST set surplus from GWR and LNER.
Unfortunately this argument fails a key test back at The Treasury. Those passengers squashed in or standing have all bought tickets, many of them high priced. The fact that the overcrowding continues long term shows that passengers are not dissuaded by it. If you go to the expense of procuring extra carriages there is no evidence that you will get much extra revenue, all that will happen is that these standees get a seat. So the Return on Investment calculation, which is all The Treasury look at, comes out grossly negative.
 

Serathor

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Hi all - thank you for taking the time to answer my query... very interesting reading. all advice taken on board - thank you
 

6Gman

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Unfortunately this argument fails a key test back at The Treasury. Those passengers squashed in or standing have all bought tickets, many of them high priced. The fact that the overcrowding continues long term shows that passengers are not dissuaded by it. If you go to the expense of procuring extra carriages there is no evidence that you will get much extra revenue, all that will happen is that these standees get a seat. So the Return on Investment calculation, which is all The Treasury look at, comes out grossly negative.
Exactly. Unless putting in extra resource is going to produce an equal (+ £1) increase in income there is no incentive for either the TOC or the DfT to do it.
 

Envoy

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Unfortunately this argument fails a key test back at The Treasury. Those passengers squashed in or standing have all bought tickets, many of them high priced. The fact that the overcrowding continues long term shows that passengers are not dissuaded by it. If you go to the expense of procuring extra carriages there is no evidence that you will get much extra revenue, all that will happen is that these standees get a seat. So the Return on Investment calculation, which is all The Treasury look at, comes out grossly negative.
People could be dissuaded by the overcrowding/high prices and desert (or never have used) rail travel for the private car. The DfT would simply not know how many people are refusing to use the trains due to these issues.
 

PartyOperator

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The 2015 Network Rail Western Route Study (link below, appendix D e.g. p269) found that adding an additional 8 vehicles on the SW-Midlands XC route would be 'very high' value with a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of >10 and adding 11 vehicles would be 'high' value (BCR of 3.4). In addition, adding 12 vehicles on the South Coast to North West/North East was also 'very high' value (BCR of 5.4). These calculations assume HS2 will offer significant capacity relief so they only allow for 10 years of benefits. All of these are on a CP6 (2023) timeframe.

So it's pretty clear that the DFT are aware of the issues and have the evidence that increasing capacity on core XC services would be worth doing according to their own criteria.

https://cdn.networkrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Western-Route-Study-Final-1.pdf

This 2018 consultation document, signed by Chris Grayling, states that:
While passenger numbers have increased, the size of the train fleet has stayed largely the same so some of the busiest routes on the network suffer from crowding. Resolving crowding is my primary objective for the next franchise, and I want to see a growing and successful franchise that delivers this.
https://assets.publishing.service.g...senger-rail-franchise-public-consultation.pdf

I'll believe it when I see it, but I don't get the impression the DFT are explicitly opposed to improving XC rolling stock. More that it's just not a high enough priority for them.
 

Taunton

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The 2015 Network Rail Western Route Study (link below, appendix D e.g. p269) found that adding an additional 8 vehicles on the SW-Midlands XC route would be 'very high' value with a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of >10 and adding 11 vehicles would be 'high' value (BCR of 3.4). In addition, adding 12 vehicles on the South Coast to North West/North East was also 'very high' value (BCR of 5.4). These calculations assume HS2 will offer significant capacity relief so they only allow for 10 years of benefits.
I wonder just what relief HS2 (which in 10 years time will still be just London to the Midlands, nonstop) could possibly offer to Cross-Country services which go nowhere near London.
 

Taunton

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In South Wales there's only five car sets sent out to London if there's a fault with one of the trains, I'd rather a five car sent out instead of it being cancelled outright. The only exception being the Swansea-Carmarthen trains that split at Swansea. Has GWR actually timetabled a five car set in place of a HST?
This month's Modern Railways quotes a joke within GWR that, following release of their latest marketing campaign "Five go to Devon" based once again around the old Enid Blyton Famous Five books, it immediately became known as "Five vice Ten go to Devon". So it seems that GWR internally are finding the constant shortforming of trains and people standing from Paddington to Taunton a good giggle.
 

PartyOperator

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I wonder just what relief HS2 (which in 10 years time will still be just London to the Midlands, nonstop) could possibly offer to Cross-Country services which go nowhere near London.
Nothing (or if anything it will increase loading on these trains by reducing journey times and encouraging travel via Birmingham), but a reduction in demand on the northern part of the route would harm the business case for lengthening trains on the southern part. Even with the conservative assumptions that HS2 phase 2 will be operating in 2033 and that this will reduce demand for XC north of New Street, there's a good case for lengthening the trains. In reality I suspect that HS2 will increase demand on large parts of the XC network even where HS2 runs in parallel, but you don't need to assume that to justify investing in new trains for XC.
 

paddy1

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This month's Modern Railways quotes a joke within GWR that, following release of their latest marketing campaign "Five go to Devon" based once again around the old Enid Blyton Famous Five books, it immediately became known as "Five vice Ten go to Devon". So it seems that GWR internally are finding the constant shortforming of trains and people standing from Paddington to Taunton a good giggle.
There are only five car trains now running the fast half hourly services between Paddington and Oxford for most of the day, some of which carry on to the Cotswold line, and replacing the 8 car HST's this route used to enjoy. While 5 cars may be adequate off peak beyond Oxford through to Worcester etc, no way is it enough between Paddington and Oxford. I think London- Oxford passengers have fared very badly out of these 'improvements' and 'increased capacity' provided by the new longer trains/carriages, as not have they only been denied electrification, but they now also have to put up with much reduced seating capacity and overcrowding on the shorter trains employed on off peak fast services.
 

JonathanH

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There are only five car trains now running the fast half hourly services between Paddington and Oxford for most of the day, some of which carry on to the Cotswold line, and replacing the 8 car HST's this route used to enjoy.
Many of those services used to have Adelantes and Turbos, not HSTs. GWR continue to use 9-car 80x on Oxford trains where demand justifies it. There are certain times when a 5-car 80x is not enough for Paddington to Oxford admittedly.
 

Noddy

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I wonder just what relief HS2 (which in 10 years time will still be just London to the Midlands, nonstop) could possibly offer to Cross-Country services which go nowhere near London.
P2a will run as far as Crewe and is due to be open alongside Phase 1. So that will provide relief on the Birmingham-Manchester section.
 

Tetchytyke

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I think London- Oxford passengers have fared very badly out of these 'improvements'
Many Oxford fast services were previously operated by Turbos, so an IEP is a vast improvement.

I wonder just what relief HS2 (which in 10 years time will still be just London to the Midlands, nonstop) could possibly offer to Cross-Country services which go nowhere near London.
Little if none, but HS2's business case is based on it curing all ills on all railways, so you can expect HS2 spending to be marketed as a bonus for cross-country passengers.

And HS2 will swallow all the money anyway, so you can forget any investment, even if there was a motivation to invest in XC, which there isn't.
 

Wolfie

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That is simply not true, particularly in the case of Voyagers or commuter layout stock (185s) on long distance services. No modern stock can match the space efficiency of a Mk3 or late build Mk2 both containing 2 toilets per carriage. The massive toilets on voyagers and the dead space around the cabs essentially make a 4 car the equivalent of 3 hauled coaches. The large 1/3, 2/3 vestibules on 185s also reduce the seated capacity.
It is easier to be 'space efficient' if you make no provision for disabled people etc...
 

ValleyLines142

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In South Wales there's only five car sets sent out to London if there's a fault with one of the trains, I'd rather a five car sent out instead of it being cancelled outright. The only exception being the Swansea-Carmarthen trains that split at Swansea. Has GWR actually timetabled a five car set in place of a HST?
There's actually a couple of services that are booked for a 5-car set in South Wales. 0718 Paddington to Cardiff and 0951 Cardiff to Paddington is one, along with the 1018 from Paddington and the 1253 from Cardiff back. The 1018 is a stupid one as it's the first Off Peak service. Caught it last Monday to find just one unreserved seat, which thankfully I managed to nab!

Rather cowardly, though, guards on board these services regularly apologise for the train being 'short formed' when in fact they're actually only booked for 5 cars. I believe they inter-work with Cheltenham and Oxford diagrams.
 

VT 390

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There's actually a couple of services that are booked for a 5-car set in South Wales. 0718 Paddington to Cardiff and 0951 Cardiff to Paddington is one, along with the 1018 from Paddington and the 1253 from Cardiff back. The 1018 is a stupid one as it's the first Off Peak service. Caught it last Monday to find just one unreserved seat, which thankfully I managed to nab!

Rather cowardly, though, guards on board these services regularly apologise for the train being 'short formed' when in fact they're actually only booked for 5 cars. I believe they inter-work with Cheltenham and Oxford diagrams.
Though it's probably unlikely could part of the reason for making the first off peak services 5 carriages be to try to get people to buy more expensive anytime tickets?
 

DarloRich

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Unfortunately this argument fails a key test back at The Treasury. Those passengers squashed in or standing have all bought tickets, many of them high priced. The fact that the overcrowding continues long term shows that passengers are not dissuaded by it. If you go to the expense of procuring extra carriages there is no evidence that you will get much extra revenue, all that will happen is that these standees get a seat. So the Return on Investment calculation, which is all The Treasury look at, comes out grossly negative.
This is a gross simplification.
 

Clarence Yard

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There's actually a couple of services that are booked for a 5-car set in South Wales. 0718 Paddington to Cardiff and 0951 Cardiff to Paddington is one, along with the 1018 from Paddington and the 1253 from Cardiff back. The 1018 is a stupid one as it's the first Off Peak service. Caught it last Monday to find just one unreserved seat, which thankfully I managed to nab!

Rather cowardly, though, guards on board these services regularly apologise for the train being 'short formed' when in fact they're actually only booked for 5 cars. I believe they inter-work with Cheltenham and Oxford diagrams.
The last minute DfT/NR pulling of the off peak super fast Bristol trains has caused this anomaly. They would have taken some of the load of the 5 car Cardiff trains. To unpick it all would have meant a complete diagram rewrite as well as a rewrite of Paddington platforms (which are very tightly timed in this timetable, thanks to Crossrail not yet going down the hole) so the decision was taken to go with as is during the winter timetable.

In May the Bristol super fasts come in and then GWR can see how the respective trains load, compared with the original plan.
 

hexagon789

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The last minute DfT/NR pulling of the off peak super fast Bristol trains has caused this anomaly. They would have taken some of the load of the 5 car Cardiff trains. To unpick it all would have meant a complete diagram rewrite as well as a rewrite of Paddington platforms (which are very tightly timed in this timetable, thanks to Crossrail not yet going down the hole) so the decision was taken to go with as is during the winter timetable.

In May the Bristol super fasts come in and then GWR can see how the respective trains load, compared with the original plan.
Are these "super fasts" 5-car?
 

Rhydgaled

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HS2 will swallow all the money anyway, so you can forget any investment, even if there was a motivation to invest in XC, which there isn't.
Fortunately investment elsewhere in new Hitachi units (for Avanti and EMR) should mean that a capacity boost for XC intercity services can and will happen without the need for investment in XC directly. Unless a cascade counts as investment or DfT have something else in mind for the stock concerned of course.

45x 221/222 replacing 34x 220 would be a nice increase in capacity, with a few class 221s being made available for the Cardiff-Nottingham service to release some 170s to strengthen other Turbostar units*

* I'm assuming that class 220 intermediate vehicles can be used to lengthen 222s (are there any technical/bodyshell differences other than software (obviously the interior spec is different))? and that the 4x 4-car 221s plus two of the Avanti units would be sacrificed to create 7x 7-car class 221 sets - would it be worth keeping tilt active on this subfleet for use on Manchester workings?
 

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