Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum by Paul Denyer Esq (OPT 02)


  Thank you for the opportunity to make observations on this subject. I am responding as a regular user of trains and an occasional user of buses but also as a professional transport planner with a keen interest in promoting greater use of public transport for commuting and business journeys.

  Firstly, we should understand the scale of the problem. A number of commuter routes into the major conurbations are notoriously overcrowded at peak times, with London the prime example, but many routes are not yet at or even close to capacity. However my experience suggests that the Train Operating Companies are not planning for the future and indeed even on these routes are tending to make matters worse rather than better. Recently I have seen on lines local to Portsmouth well used but not crowded three carriage slam door rolling stock replaced with new, smarter two carriage units now running at capacity, or very close to it. Whilst passengers benefit from air conditioning, for most people, and particularly those that travel regularly, this will only be of secondary importance to having a seat, preferably with space to stretch one's legs. This seems to be an increasing trend and does not bode well for the future.

  Secondly, the design of new rolling stock appears to ignore the fact that train passengers tend to travel with luggage, whether this is a briefcase, suitcases or a pushchair. Storage space is limited and inflexible, doors are often narrow and at the extreme ends of the carriages meaning that the flexibility of the much maligned slam door stock is a thing of the past. With limited access points disembarking/embarking times are extended encroaching into the very limited journey time improvements promised of the new stock. One is tempted to say that the longer the train (and by inference the busier the routes it serves) the smaller and less convenient the access/egress arrangements.

  Thirdly, efforts to reduce overcrowding should not be at the expense of the wider integrated transport policy. A number of train operators have been quite explicit that they see the carriage of cycles on trains as onerous. However, this is a short-sighted view. The provision of good quality, secure cycle parking is only practical at larger, fully staffed stations. Left on an unstaffed station any quality bicycle can be expected to have a limited life expectancy and if those living in more rural areas are to be encouraged to reduce their car dependency then being able to take your cycle on the train is essential. There is also an issue of integration. Cycle/train/cycle is a near ideal multi modal trip where both origin and destination are each within three miles (and sometimes up to five miles) of a station—and it is exceptional for this not to be the case, certainly in the south-east and the Midlands. To not have one's cycle at the destination station means another mode change, more expense and, unless the station is a major one, probably a wait for a taxi to be despatched to the station.

  Clearly the question of overcrowding must be addressed, not just for present passengers but also to make rail travel a more attractive alternative to entice potential passengers from their cars. This could be by using longer trains or more trains/services but probably a combination of both. Increasing charges to existing passengers to fund this expansion, particularly over the likely time span before measurable improvement would be seen off the premium corridors, is likely to prove counter-productive in the light of recent government figures that have shown the real costs of rail travel double over the last 30 years whilst car ownership and use costs have actually fallen in real term. Logically funding must be found elsewhere which inevitably leads one towards traffic charging (preferably through the more flexible and equitable mechanism of workplace parking charges) as both generating a new revenue stream whilst working towards balancing the costs between the alternative modes.

  I look forward to seeing the results of the Committee's deliberations in due course.

December 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 5 November 2003