Our trains worst in south east for overcrowding
Although improvements have been made, government figures show that the rail firm runs at an average of 7.1 per cent overcapacity during peak time on services in London and the South East.
Independent passenger group Railfuture has revealed that overall, the number of passengers using Newbury railway station between 2005 and 2012 has increased by 61 per cent, while further research showed that more than 30 per cent of passengers who were quizzed in Newbury said they were unhappy with what they perceived as overcrowded carriages.
The director of the independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus, David Sidebottom, said: “These government figures confirm the daily experience of many passengers as some trains become more crowded. Only two thirds of passengers in Newbury we surveyed were satisfied with the amount of space they had on their journey.
“The continuation of significant long-term investment, such as electrification and more carriages, is necessary to not only reduce overcrowding, but to ensure that it doesn’t get worse if passenger numbers increase as predicted.”
“Passengers already put in around £2 for every £1 spent by the taxpayer on the railways – industry needs to increase capacity without further increasing fares. Operators could also do more to let passengers know which are the busiest trains, and suggest alternatives of less-busy services.”
A spokesman for the Thames Valley branch of Railfuture, Hugh Jaeger, said: “Improvements have been made but we are a long way off where we need to be – 7.1 per cent might not sound like a lot to some people, but that figure is not evenly distributed. Sometimes during peak hours you can have double the amount of passengers to the number of available seats. The number of people commuting from Newbury has risen year by year and the Department for Transport needs to recognise that and take appropriate action.”
Following a number of fatal rail crashes – including at Ufton Nervet in 2004, which claimed the lives of seven people – a computer simulation of a train crash, conducted by Coventry-based Advanced Simulation Technologies, demonstrated that standing passengers were three times more likely to suffer serious injury in an accident than those seated.
Regular user of First Great Western services into London Paddington during peak times, Chris Colledge, aged 20, said: “There’s always plenty of space in first class, yet the rest of the train is badly overcrowded.”
The Department for Transport said that the latest figures, down on 2011, only related to standard class carriages.
Spokesman Dan Panes, said: “These figures show that our strategy to reduce crowding on our busiest services into London is clearly working, and has successfully reduced crowding at peak times by more than half in two years.
"While there is still more to do, the Department for Transport's report makes it clear that the proportion of passengers standing on First Great Western peak services is lower than for a number of other operators nationally.”
He added that they were confident that two upcoming projects – CrossRail and InterCity express – would help to alleviate the number of people travelling during peak time.
Meanwhile, First Great Western has confirmed that engineering work will cause severe disruption at weekends between September 14 and October 20 while track maintenance work is carried out as part of the upgrade to Reading railway station.
Amended timetables, diversions and bus replacement services will be in place.
More information is available at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk