Overcrowding On Local Trains No Longer a Problem

But whether they are ‘acceptably loaded’ in another issue altogether

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It is doubtful that the latest initiative from the Department of Transport to reduce train overcrowding will receive resounding applause from the daily crush of commuters on the Hounslow Loop Line.

Displaying great insight into the trials and tribulations of the average passenger on one of the country’s most crowded train services, Government officials have decided not to add extra carriages but to change the definition of ‘overcrowding’ or in 2008 terminology ‘acceptable loading of passengers’.

Under the old standard, ten people standing for every hundred seats was considered acceptable. The new national standard, which will apply to all routes, has tripled the acceptable number of standing passengers to 30 per 100 seats.

The Hounslow Loop line, which serves Isleworth, Brentford, Chiswick and Putney, was officially named as one of the most crowded in the country. The train which leaves Isleworth at 8.04am, then arrives at Brentford at 8.09am, Chiswick at 8.14am and Putney at 8.22am has well over 1,000 passengers but only 792 seats.

A report published by the National Audit Office claimed that the situation would continue to get worse until the Government fulfilled its pledge to introduce 1,300 extra carriages.

Passengers’ concerns about overcrowding are the most common complaint received by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). The Department for Transport (DfT) monitors the levels of crowding and incentivises train operating companies to plan their timetables to accommodate the passengers expected throughout the morning and evening peak periods. Separate regimes penalise operators for late trains or for services that do not meet the agreed timetable.

Commuter train operators are required to carry out passenger counts to demonstrate that adequate capacity is provided. This ensures that franchised operators properly address the issue of capacity requirements in peak periods. However, unlike other forms of transport, there is no legal limit on the number of passengers that can travel in any given train coach because the numbers of passengers on-board does not affect a train’s operating performance or its structural integrity.

October 15, 2008