Trains still crowded says survey

PUBLISHED: 09:44 09 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:11 06 May 2010

A WATCHDOG has revealed evening peak restrictions imposed by a rail operator have had no impact on the overcrowding of trains. This is according to a survey carried out by Passenger Focus – the independent rail consumer watchdog – in the wake of First Cap

A WATCHDOG has revealed evening peak restrictions imposed by a rail operator have had no impact on the overcrowding of trains.

This is according to a survey carried out by Passenger Focus - the independent rail consumer watchdog - in the wake of First Capital Connect's decision to introduce evening peak travel restrictions to ease overcrowding northbound on the former Thameslink line.

The restrictions prevent passengers on cheap day return tickets travelling from London between 4.30pm and 7.01pm from Monday to Friday.

But, after quizzing more than 500 passengers who travelled on the affected routes at and around the times of the restriction, Passenger Focus discovered one in four commuters - 27 per cent - said the trains were more crowded than in Spring 2006 while 54 per cent said it was much the same and just 10 per cent said they were less crowded.

Almost half of all passengers surveyed were aware of the changes to ticket validity and 41 per cent of passengers, including 53 per cent of leisure travellers, opposed the ticket restrictions compared to 31 per cent who supported the changes.

Just over 30 per cent said their ticket represented poorer value for money than in spring 2006 but there appeared to be no real net change in frequency of travel by non-season ticket holders, with 77 per cent saying it remained unchanged.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers have told us trains are just as crowded or are more crowded than before restrictions were imposed which casts doubts on one of First Capital Connect's arguments for introducing the restrictions."

A key meeting between Passenger Focus, commuter representative groups and MPs, including MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, Peter Lilley, was held at the House of Commons to discuss the impact of FCC's introduction of the restrictions and to commit to finding a solution for passengers.

Mr Lilley said: "We learnt that the weighing equipment that is used to calculate the number of passengers carried on their trains is not working.

"Consequently First Capital Connect conveniently cannot say whether their fare increases have eased overcrowding at peak evening travel."

He added: "Passenger Focus is to make a formal referral to the Dept of Transport under the Transport Act 1993 registering their dissatisfaction with the operator."

A spokesman for FCC said the company would be carrying out its own major piece of research shortly.

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