Some train passengers are provided with less space than the minimum legally acceptable for transporting livestock, it has been revealed.
The Sunday Times research comes as rules governing the amount of space per passenger in commuter trains will change to squeeze more people into each carriage.
Over 1,700 new train carriages for commuter services in London and the south east are expected to be built on the basis that four people can fit into every square metre of standing space. This is based on government assumptions that a standing train passenger takes up 0.25m² of floor area.
But European Union rules state that adult goats and calves must have an area of at least 0.3 m² when being transported. Unshorn sheep weighing less than 55kg must have between 0.3 m² and 0.4m².
This news will perhaps come as vindication to long-suffering commuters who say that they are treated like cattle.
“Passengers have often said that even livestock are treated better than this and now we have the proof,” said Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport.
Speaking to the paper, he added, “Unlike livestock, people are being charged thousands of pounds a year for this.”
Most rail franchises allocate 0.45m² per standing passenger. But government documents describing the specification of 1,140 new carriages to be added to the Thameslink network, which runs north to south through London, show that the capacity of each carriage will be calculated on the basis of only 0.25m² per standing passenger.
These trains are expected to come into service in 2016.
The smaller specification will also apply to 600 carriages being procured for the London Crossrail line, which is still in construction, alongside new trains on the Essex Thameside network.
These space rules come days after rail passengers were told that regulated rail fares, which include season tickets, “anytime” single tickets and off-peak intercity tickets, will increase by 4.1 per cent in January.
More miserable news for commuters is that similar inflation-linked rises are due in 2014 and 2015.