Commuters forced to stand for overcrowding beyond the limit

BRITAIN'S COMMUTER rail network is close to breaking point, the Government's rail watchdog warned yesterday, as he published figures showing that passengers are suffering severe overcrowding.

Two commuter services into London - Thameslink and South West Trains - exceeded their permitted overcrowding limits last year.

Thameslink, which runs from Bedford to Brighton via London and from central London to Wimbledon, carried 7.1 per cent more people than the capacity of its trains allowed. South West Trains, the commuter service from London to Surrey and Hampshire, recorded 3.9 per cent overcrowding.

John O'Brien, the franchising director of the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (Opraf), said: "Clearly, if numbers continue to grow at the predicted rate, the system will soon become overloaded. Commuter capacity is a key issue that the Strategic Rail Authority will need to urgently address."

Mr O'Brien said that both train companies must devise action plans to ease overcrowding. They may be fined or even lose their franchises if they fail to deliver.

The Opraf system, which only covers the 10 commuter services that run into London, gives train companies a 3 per cent threshold to allow for standing. Opraf said the other eight of these operators had stayed within the threshold, despite achieving an annual 3.8 per cent growth in passenger numbers.

The figures are the latest blow to the industry, following dreadful punctuality and reliability figures that prompted the Government to intervene and call a rail summit.

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for transport, said yesterday that carrying more passengers was no excuse for poor performance. "Passengers expect and deserve to travel in comfort. That doesn't include standing for the length of the journey," he said. "As passenger numbers continue to grow there will be more strain on current capacity. We look to the franchising director, where possible, to reduce any severe overcrowding."

The London Regional Passenger Committee, the official watchdog for the capital, said passengers on Thameslink faced "appalling problems". Rufus Barnes, LRPC director, said: "There does not appear to be a short-term solution because of the infrastructure limitations in south London."

The Association of Train Operating Companies said the rail system was "wrestling with the problems of its own success".

"We are having to cope with unprecedented growth of 25 per cent over the past four years. We have introduced 1,000 extra services a day to cope with increasing demand but we still need more trains and major improvements to track and signalling."

Railtrack last week unveiled a pounds 27bn 10-year investment programme but only committed pounds 1.4bn of new money to expand the network. The Health and Safety Executive said it had commissioned research into whether overcrowding affected railway safety.

t Trains carrying cars will return tomorrow as a private venture, four years after British Rail axed them to save money.

Motorail aims by 2001 to take 20,000 cars off the roads each year. It will cost pounds 360 return to put a car on the train from London to Glasgow. Passengers have to travel separately but train operators GNER, Virgin and ScotRail are offering low fares, and Motorail also hopes easyJet will offer cheap air fares for passengers.

WORST LINES FOR OVERCROWDING

ROUTE % passengers in

excess of capacity

Thameslink

Wimbledon-Blackfriars 14.1 per cent AM

Thameslink

Wimbledon-Blackfriars 12.1 per cent PM

Silverlink

London Euston-Watford 10.9 per cent AM

South West Trains

Short distance services 6.3 per cent AM

Silverlink

Richmond-Woolwich 5.9 per cent AM

South West Trains

Long distance services 5.8 per cent AM

Thameslink

Bedford-Brighton 5.8 per cent AM

Thameslink

Bedford-Brighton 5.5 per cent PM

Connex SouthCentral

South London routes 4.6 per cent AM

Thames Trains

All Routes 4.4 per cent AM

Source: Office for Passenger Rail Franchising

AM=morning peak; PM=evening peak

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power