Essex

Greater Anglia blames 2018 snow for shorter trains in 2019

train carriage Image copyright Nick Ansell
Image caption Greater Anglia has frustrated passengers by reducing carriages while it prepares for new trains

A rail firm has told a commuter it is still running shorter trains because of last year's "Beast from the East" as parts of the UK brace for snow again.

In October, Greater Anglia (GA) said it had reduced carriages on trains as a temporary measure, while it fixed those damaged by "slippery" leaves.

But this month, a commuter complaining about continued over-crowding was told last February's snowfall was to blame.

In a statement, GA said the passenger had been sent the wrong explanation.

Anglia Rail Users Group (ARUG) said it was "laughable" to blame fewer carriages in 2019 on 2018's heavy snowfall.

Snow has been forecast for this week, with warnings it could disrupt travel.

Tony Knight from Witham in Essex, who received the snow-based explanation this month, said: "Greater Anglia are a complete joke."

The rail firm wrote to him saying there were "a combination of factors currently affecting the level of maintenance required".

In the letter to Mr Knight, it said: "Firstly we are still recovering from the damage done to our trains from the snowfall which resulted in over 25-plus units requiring new traction motors."

Image copyright Anglia Rail User Group
Image caption Commuters on a Greater Anglia train in October

It added that it was having trouble getting motor parts and was juggling the "challenges" of introducing new trains in 2020 and attempting "not to impact on availability of trains for our service requirements".

But in a statement to the BBC, the rail firm said: "A member of staff was using the wrong information to answer this customer's enquiry."

A spokeswoman said the company was "very sorry" about this. She added that the number of shortened trains had fallen "significantly" since December and efforts were being made to reduce it further.

ARUG claimed Greater Anglia had been running short-form trains for the past nine months, in particular across Essex and Suffolk, and accused it of using maintenance staff to prepare for the new fleet instead.

"It's a shambles," said Derek Cox of ARUG, who claimed the company had failed to build in additional capacity to cope with carriages needing maintenance and repairs.

"Despite repeated requests, the company has been unable to confirm that a full capacity service will be restored before the completion of the rollout of the new trains, currently scheduled for the end of 2020," said Mr Cox.

Image copyright Greater Anglia
Image caption Commuters cannot claim compensation for short-formed trains or overcrowding

The Witham MP, Priti Patel, has taken up the issue of overcrowding and short-form trains on behalf of constituents.

In a letter dated 21 December she was told by GA's managing director James Burles: "The number of trains which are shorter than usual has gone down compared to earlier in the year.

"But on some lines there have still been shorter trains than usual, which we're very sorry about."

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