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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album