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London Midland top of DfT’s overcrowded service table

The most overcrowded service during autumn 2013 was the 16:46 London Midland service from London Euston to Crewe, which had a standard class load factor of 211%, according to figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT). 

The figure is for standard class passengers expressed as a percentage of the maximum allowable standard class passenger capacity for that service. For example, a train which has the same passenger load as the passenger capacity would have a load factor of 100%. 

Campaigners say the latest figures show overcrowding is getting worse at the country's main stations. 

However, the 16:46 was not the only London Midland service listed in the top 10, with the 18:13 from London Euston to Birmingham New Street, with a load factor of 152%, listed as the seventh most overcrowded service in the country. 

Lindsey Preece, communications manager at London Midland, told RTM the number of passenger journeys on London Midland has grown by almost a third (32%) in the last seven years and the TOC is making every effort to keep up with demand. 

She added: “We have already doubled the length of the 16:46 Euston – Crewe service (from 4 to 8 cars) – our busiest train service cited in the report.  

“In December we will be introducing 10 new trains and a new timetable. Seven of the new trains will be used on routes into and out of Euston, and three will be used in the West Midlands. This will give us an additional 4,000 peak time seats in and out of the capital each day.” 

The 16:46 London Midland service may have been top on the overcrowding list, but First Great Western’s (FGW) services dominated the table with three making an appearance: the 07:00 service from Oxford to London Paddington: load factor 168%; the 07:44 service from Henley-on-Thames to London Paddington: load factor 161%; and the 07:21 service from Oxford to London Paddington: load factor 156%. 

Commenting on the figures, an FGW spokesperson said that despite the lack of availability of suitable additional trains in the UK, the company has worked hard to secure additional capacity. 

He added: “Working with the DfT, we are converting First Class carriages to add an additional Standard carriage on each high speed train (HST) service. Once complete (Summer 2015) this will add 3,000 standard seats, nearly 16% more capacity in the morning peak into and out of London Paddington.

“Other recent changes have seen us declassify many First Class compartments on our class 166 turbo fleet to further improve standard capacity, particularly for Thames Valley commuters.” 

However, he accepted that there is still much to do and FGW will be working with the DfT to secure further service improvements. 

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group,  representing Network Rail and rail operators, said that running over 1.5 million extra services a year for passengers compared to 15 years ago has helped transform Britain’s railway into Europe’s fastest growing network. 

RDG added: “While the official measure of crowding during peak times now compared with then has remained largely unchanged despite a doubling in passenger journeys, we recognise that some services remain crowded and understand people’s frustration when they cannot get a seat. 

“Because rail users are at the heart of what we do, the industry is already planning to increase peak time seats into and out of many major cities by over a third in the next five years.” 

But James MacColl, head of campaigns at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “With up to one-in-five passengers having to stand and ticket prices increasing much faster than wages, rail commuters will be questioning the value for money they get. Government needs continue investing in the railways with a long-term strategy to cope with demand and keep fares affordable.” 

The report highlighted that overcrowding is not just restricted to London, with Sheffield experiencing the largest PiXC (passengers in excess of capacity) in the morning peak, up 5.1%. The city outside with the highest number of passengers (outside London) was Birmingham, with 39,000 on board trains arriving into the city centre in the morning peak. Manchester had 30,000 morning peak arrivals and Leeds 24,000. 

MacColl added: “Cities like Sheffield and Manchester are seeing increasing numbers of passengers having to stand – often on outdated and uncomfortable trains. 

“Rather than ramping up fares, we need to invest in new trains, improved stations and better services to meet demand. Government must devolve more control to city-regions who understand best were investment needs to be targeted.” 

Following the release of the figures, transport minister Claire Perry has challenged the rail industry to find new ways to give commuters more seats on busy trains. 

She added that since 1995 passenger journeys on the railway have more than doubled, with 1.6 billion journeys being recorded in the last year. This means that on too many journeys, passengers have to stand in cramped conditions. 

“Train operators must act now, they must find new ways to create space on the network and in their trains,” said Perry. “I understand the frustration of rail passengers forced to stand on busy services and that is why I am calling on the operators to do more.” 

To view the top 10 list for autumn 2013, click here. 

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