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Urgent action called for after crowd chaos at London Bridge

Network Rail has promised to review its plans for London Bridge during the Thameslink renovations, as rail bosses have been warned to sort out “dangerous” overcrowding at the station after commuters suffered through “life-threatening chaos” earlier this week.

London mayor Boris Johnson called for urgent action after passengers were forced to leap over and crawl underneath security gates to escape a rush hour crush of people on 3 March.

Lines were shut down for 45 minutes from 4.20pm on the day because of a person on the tracks at Streatham. The knock-on delays saw huge numbers of people stranded on platforms and concourses, with dramatic images posted by onlookers showing people desperately trying to avoid the crowding.

People stuck in the station took to Twitter to share pictures of the chaos, vent their frustration and express their fear as a sea of people was squashed together on the concourse with no means of exit.

@MarioCreatura tweeted: “Horrific pictures of trapped commuters at London Bridge this evening. Treated like caged animals. Inexcusable!”

While @EllaVize said: “London Bridge station is a screaming mess of a disaster. @networkrail & @southernrail you should be ASHAMED.”

She followed that with: “Apologies for the rant but I've never seen anything like #LBStation tonight & never felt so unsafe in London. @SouthernRailUK @networkrail.”

British Transport Police officers had to be called in to manage the crowd.

Mayor Johnson said: “This chaos must end now. The scenes at London Bridge last night were completely unacceptable.

“It is a disgrace that Network Rail and the train operating companies have failed once again to get a grip of the situation at London Bridge.”

Network Rail's route managing director for the South East, Dave Ward, described the situation for commuters last night as “very tough”.

“We will as a matter of course be reviewing our plans and the events of last night to see what, if any, lessons can be learned,” he said.

“The railway around south London is so busy that if one train is delayed by just one minute it will delay 17 other services as a result,” he said. That is why the Thameslink programme is so important to the future of our railway.”

The rail union RMT blamed the chaos on the “fragmentation and privatisation” of the railways.

Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary, said: “Those pictures shame our railways and it is about time those in control, including the government, started to take some responsibility.

“The bottom line is that we are trying to cram more and more passengers into a transport system which is already at bursting point and where the pressure is on to cut more corners and axe more staff in the drive for profit. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that that the poisonous cocktail of surging demand against a background of cuts leads to the kind of horrendous meltdown played out at London Bridge in yesterday’s evening rush hour.”

Johnson has used the chaos to justify his demand for control over rail services in London to be devolved to City Hall and Transport for London.

The Department for Transport said: “While the cause of delays was beyond anyone’s control, it is clear the crowd management at the station failed.”

The station redevelopment is part of a £6.5bn Thameslink programme to improve travel through London. 

(Image source:  Teilo Colley/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Rayjaykay   08/03/2015 at 19:43

There's an election looming. Expect nonsense. The problem at London Bridge on this occasion was simply that an estimated 2.5 times the normal evening peak passengers arrived there because of closures elsewhere. The result was a great crush for approximately quarter of an hour. Politicians and (for some reason popular) media jumped on this for their own advantage. People who were there have commented that whilst it was very busy it was far from dangerous as some have claimed. Beware the hype.

LBG Is Falling Down   09/03/2015 at 08:44

I found it slightly concerning that Robin Gisby - a career railwayman and a competent one at that - was the sacrificial lamb that had to be the face & voice of NR in front of the cameras, even though he was shortly - and unrelatedly - to leave NR. Likewise it's no secret that Dave Ward is retiring this year, but he's who we see on TV. Dave works for the NR South East route, not for Thameslink who are delivering the London Bridge scheme. How about some TLP ownership & responsibility?

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