Al­though rail travel is one of the fastest means of trans­port, no leg­is­la­tion ex­ists gov­ern­ing the num­ber of pas­sen­gers that may travel on a ser­vice. MICHAEL FER­RIER ex­am­ines statis­tics on the UK’s most over­crowded trains, and fears that pas­sen­gers are be

Rail (UK) - - Contents -

Peak-time over­crowd­ing.

“Train travel is the fastest form of pub­lic trans­port on land, yet it has no re­stric­tions, in law, to the num­ber of pas­sen­gers that can be car­ried.”

IT is 2018, and in the UK we are still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing over­crowd­ing on trains to a dan­ger­ous level. It is the only form of pub­lic trans­port that does not have a leg­isla­tive limit on the num­ber of pas­sen­gers that can be car­ried on it.

There have been many stud­ies over the years re­gard­ing train ca­pac­ity. The timetabling of a ser­vice can af­fect a train’s ca­pac­ity, which in turn may af­fect its crowd­ing level. There­fore, in or­der to as­cer­tain if crowd­ing has oc­curred on trains, a mea­sure­ment is made by com­par­ing the Stan­dard Class crit­i­cal and stan­dard ca­pac­ity of the ser­vice.

A stan­dard ca­pac­ity will in­clude the num­ber of Stan­dard Class seats on a par­tic­u­lar ser­vice, and may take into ac­count an al­lowance for stand­ing pas­sen­gers. No such al­lowance is given in re­la­tion to a ser­vice that takes more than 20 min­utes be­tween sta­tions, but is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when the jour­ney time be­tween sta­tions is less than 20 min­utes. Train crowd­ing cal­cu­la­tions ex­clude First Class.

More than a third of rail pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing into Lon­don in the morn­ing rush hour have to stand, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. From data re­leased by the De­part­ment for Trans­port for 2016, we can see that: ■ The top ten over­crowded ser­vices in spring 2016 were be­tween 58% and 126% over their pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity. ■ The top ten over­crowded ser­vices in au­tumn 2016 were be­tween 77% and 113% over their pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity. ■ Eight of the top ten over­crowded ser­vices in both spring 2016 and au­tumn 2016 were ar­riv­ing at or de­part­ing from Lon­don sta­tions. ■ Eight of the top ten over­crowded ser­vices in spring 2016 and five in au­tumn 2016 were in the morn­ing peak.

In the 2016 sur­vey, the over­crowd­ing was mea­sured us­ing ‘Pas­sen­gers in ex­cess of ca­pac­ity’ (PiXC), fig­ures that show the num­ber of Stan­dard Class pas­sen­gers who ex­ceed the Stan­dard Class ca­pac­ity of the train, at the busiest point of the jour­ney to or from the city cen­tre. For ex­am­ple, a train with a ca­pac­ity of 200, car­ry­ing 210 pas­sen­gers, has a PiXC of 10 and a Load Fac­tor of 105%.

Fur­ther ex­am­i­na­tion of DfT data re­vealed the top five most over­crowded peak trains in ma­jor cities in Eng­land and Wales dur­ing au­tumn 2016:

Train 1: 0716 East Grin­stead­Lon­don Bridge (South­ern)

In pre­vi­ous years, the tim­ing of this ser­vice meant that a stand­ing al­lowance was in­cluded in de­ter­min­ing the ca­pac­ity of this train.

How­ever, the jour­ney time to Lon­don Bridge from the pre­vi­ous stop has now been ex­tended to slightly more than 20 min­utes. This means that only the seat­ing ca­pac­ity is now taken into ac­count, and all stand­ing pas­sen­gers on this ser­vice are now con­sid­ered to be ‘in ex­cess of ca­pac­ity’.

This ser­vice op­er­ates as a 12-car train and can­not be length­ened fur­ther. How­ever, when the gov­ern­ment-funded Thames­link Pro­gramme has been com­pleted in 2018, more trains will be pro­vided on routes from south of Lon­don to cen­tral Lon­don and be­yond. Crit­i­cal load point (CLP): Lon­don Bridge. Time at CLP: 0820. Ca­pac­ity: 640 (in­cludes seats only). PiXC: 726. Load Fac­tor: 213%.

Train 2: 0755 Cam­bridgeLon­don King’s Cross (Great North­ern)

This ser­vice is cur­rently op­er­ated as a four-car train. Once the gov­ern­ment-funded Thames­link Pro­gramme has been com­pleted in 2018, ser­vices from Cam­bridge will trans­fer to the Thames­link route and op­er­ate as eight-car and 12-car trains. Crit­i­cal load point: Lon­don King’s Cross. Time at CLP: 0902. Ca­pac­ity: 202 (in­cludes seats only). PiXC: 224. Load Fac­tor: 211%.

Train 3: 1708 Sut­ton-St Al­bans City (Thames­link)

When the 2016 counts were car­ried out, this ser­vice was op­er­ated as a four-car train. Since then, one of the new Class 700 eight-car trains has started op­er­at­ing this ser­vice, which has a sig­nif­i­cantly higher ca­pac­ity than the old train. Crit­i­cal load point: West Hamp­stead. Time at CLP: 1756. Ca­pac­ity: 391 (in­cludes seats and stand­ing). PiXC: 367. Load Fac­tor: 194%.

Train 4: 0657 BrightonBed­ford (Thames­link)

This ser­vice op­er­ates as a 12-car train and can­not be length­ened fur­ther. How­ever, when the gov­ern­ment-funded Thames­link Pro­gramme has been com­pleted in 2018, more trains will be pro­vided on routes from south of Lon­don to cen­tral Lon­don and be­yond. This ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity should re­lieve pres­sure on many ser­vices. Crit­i­cal load point: Lon­don Black­fri­ars. Time at CLP: 0817. Ca­pac­ity: 630 (in­cludes seats only). PiXC: 585. Load Fac­tor: 193%.

Train 5: 1600 Manch­ester Air­port-Ed­in­burgh (Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press)

This ser­vice is busiest be­tween Manch­ester Ox­ford Road and Wi­gan North Western.

The train departs Manch­ester at the be­gin­ning of the peak and is con­sid­er­ably faster than al­ter­na­tive stop­ping ser­vices, so is very at­trac­tive for com­muters as well as longdis­tance pas­sen­gers to the Lake Dis­trict and Scot­land.

Be­cause the jour­ney time for this non-stop sec­tion is more than 20 min­utes, a stand­ing al­lowance is not taken into ac­count when de­ter­min­ing the ca­pac­ity of the train.

Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how more ca­pac­ity can be pro­vided into the ma­jor cities for the May 2018 timetable change, and when ad­di­tional trains are avail­able by 2019.

Crit­i­cal load point: Manch­ester Ox­ford Road. Time at CLP: 1619. Ca­pac­ity: 191 (in­cludes seats only). PiXC: 166.

Load Fac­tor: 187%. Work is on­go­ing to im­prove the qual­ity and quan­tity of pas­sen­ger count data col­lected and the out­puts de­rived. While it is be­lieved that ag­gre­gate statis­tics are of rea­son­able qual­ity, statis­tics on in­di­vid­ual ser­vices are not al­ways ro­bust due to the na­ture of the data.

From the above facts, in re­la­tion to the top five over­crowded trains, it can be seen that the over­crowd­ing ranges from 187% to 213% over the load fac­tor of the trains. If that was any other form of pub­lic trans­port, the re­spec­tive op­er­a­tors would be sub­ject to fines and penal­ties.

This is not with­stand­ing that train travel is the fastest form of pub­lic trans­port on land, yet it has no re­stric­tions, in law, to the num­ber of pas­sen­gers that can be car­ried.

There are ar­gu­ments that be­cause rail travel is on fixed lines, there is less risk of it be­ing in­volved in col­li­sions than is the case with road trans­port. But is it time to face up to this dan­ger? Of course, the ob­vi­ous an­swer would be to pro­vide more car­riages, ir­re­spec­tive of cost.

Apart from the risk to safety that over­crowd­ing causes, there are also hu­man right fac­tors to con­sider. In the ma­jor­ity of cases, pas­sen­gers fill the aisles of the train. Some also have large items of bag­gage at their feet, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to pass through the train. There­fore, any pas­sen­ger wish­ing to use the toi­let fa­cil­i­ties might be un­able to do so, thereby in­fring­ing one of their ba­sic hu­man rights.

Many op­er­a­tors’ re­sponse to over­crowd­ing may be that each ser­vice has a Train Man­ager, who has the power to pre­vent any train leav­ing a sta­tion where he or she be­lieves that such a de­par­ture would pose a risk to the safety of any­one trav­el­ling on it. There are no statis­tics avail­able to show whether or not such ac­tion has been taken.

An ap­proach was made to Great Western Rail­way, with a view to in­ter­view­ing a mem­ber of se­nior man­age­ment and a Train Man­ager. The fol­low­ing re­sponse was re­ceived by email:

“Our on­board staff are highly trained to de­ter­mine what is safe on board, and are able to use their dis­cre­tion in mak­ing de­ci­sions to en­sure pas­sen­ger safety. If they were to feel that a train was not safe to de­part, it would not be al­lowed to do so.

“In re­gard to wider ca­pac­ity de­mands, the Great Western net­work is un­der­go­ing the big­gest fleet up­grade in a gen­er­a­tion, with new elec­tric com­muter trains al­ready in ser­vice with more to come, and new In­ter­city Ex­press Trains hav­ing be­gun op­er­at­ing in Oc­to­ber, with more to come through­out the course of the next year. This in­vest­ment will de­liver more seats per train, more fre­quent ser­vices and, with the com­ple­tion of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, faster jour­neys.”

De­spite a fur­ther at­tempt to ob­tain ac­cess to staff for the pur­pose of an in­ter­view, no fur­ther replies were re­ceived.

It is worth not­ing that in the event of trains be­ing can­celled, pas­sen­gers are usu­ally con­veyed be­tween sta­tions by a bus ser­vice. How­ever, in such cases, the bus driver would be pre­vented by law to al­low over­crowd­ing

Should the Gov­ern­ment act now, by pass­ing laws in re­spect of rail pas­sen­ger safety and lim­it­ing ca­pac­i­ties on trains, or wait un­til there is a rail dis­as­ter and be forced to act when it is too late?


Stand­ing room only for pas­sen­gers on a crowded South­ern ser­vice into Lon­don in Septem­ber 2016.

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