Memorandum by the Go-Ahead Group plc (OPT
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1. The Go-Ahead Group is one of the leading
providers of passenger transport services in the UK, covering
bus, rail, parking and aviation ground handling services. Employing
over 17,000 staff, Go-Ahead companies provide services for in
excess of 600 million passengers each year.
2. Go-Ahead is the leading provider of rail
commuter services in the South East, through Thames Trains, Thameslink
and South Central. Thameslink and South Central are operated by
GoVia, Go-Ahead's partnership with SNCF subsidiary Keolis.
3. Go-Ahead also operates a range of bus
services throughout the country, including the North East (Go
North East), Oxford (the Oxford Bus Company), Brighton & Hove
(Brighton and Hove Bus Company), as well as Central and South
London (London Central and London General) and Sussex, in and
around Crawley and Gatwick (Metrobus).
4. Go-Ahead works closely with both its
employees and passengers. In Oxford Go-Ahead has set up a pioneering
stakeholder board to increase employee, trade union, passenger
and local business involvement in all aspects of the business.
On South Central Go-Ahead has similarly set up and developed a
stakeholder advisory board representing those who have an interest
in ensuring that the railway runs well. The board comprises a
wide cross section of interested parties to ensure stakeholder
1. There is no doubt that rail services
in the South East are very heavily loaded during peak times of
the day. Statistics on passenger thresholds show that many rail
services during peak periods have a consistently higher "passengers
in excess of capacity" level than those set by the Strategic
Rail Authority (SRA). The issue facing both Government and transport
operators is how to cater realistically for this increased demand.
2. In reality many rail passengers are faced
with very crowded trains particularly in the peak commuting periods
when further delays can be caused by extended dwell times at stations.
In addition trains can be delayed as a result of inadequate and
unreliable infrastructure. These issues are intensified if there
are problems on the Underground or industrial action, as additional
people are forced to use the overground trains to complete their
3. As one of the major transport operators
in the South East, Go-Ahead faces an on-going challenge to produce
an efficient and reliable rail service for our customers on the
existing infrastructure. On Thameslink in particular, demand has
grown to such an extent that lack of capacity has become a constant
problem. Some years ago Go-Ahead informed both OPRAF and subsequently
the SRA that the growth in popularity in the service would lead
to continuing capacity shortages.
4. The overcrowding and congestion on the
Thameslink routes are caused by a number of factors:
It is the only high frequency overground
The route services two airports,
Luton and Gatwick.
It provides a direct service into
the City of London, where employment has remained high over the
last five years.
It is the fastest method of transport
from the North or the South to get to the City.
Service development since franchising
has created a "turn up and go" service, further stimulating
Regulation of many commuter fares
has resulted in real terms price reductions, further stimulating
5. Thameslink has been a reliable service
and has been well marketed over the last five years meaning that
it is popular and well used. Unfortunately inadequate infrastructure
and delays to the planned Thameslink 2000 project have meant that
Go-Ahead is restricted in its ability to improve capacity. Currently
there is no spare track capacity that will allow Go-Ahead to run
extra services. In addition there are no surplus dual voltage
trains available without impacting on other services. So whilst
the idea of extra trains or longer trains is desirable, in reality
it is not feasible at the present time.
6. On both Thameslink and Thames Trains
our fleets are working at full capacity and on Thameslink, in
particular, extra carriages have been leased from other franchises
to increase capacity. However until the SRA is able to proceed
with the Thameslink 2000 project, Go-Ahead is inhibited from making
further investment which would alleviate overcrowding.
7. Go-Ahead anticipates future problems
on the Thameslink route if the existing infrastructure is not
upgraded to cope with increasing demand. In 2006-07 the new St.
Pancras station will open for Eurostar services and those domestic
services coming from East Kent. Thameslink 2000 will play an important
role in dispersing an increased number of people arriving in the
area. If the upgrading work is not completed those people will
be endeavouring to use an existing system which is already heavily
burdened, especially in the peak periods.
8. Across all rail services there will be
an ever increasing call for more and longer trains to be available
to cope with the demand. In the case of South Central Go-Ahead
has begun to address this issue by procuring 700 new carriages
whilst disposing of only 600 slam door carriages. The first of
these have been delivered and deliveries are scheduled to be completed
by November 2004. However power supply shortages could delay introduction.
9. Go-Ahead also believes that there needs
to be a greater understanding that on some trains during peak
hours not every customer should expect to have a seat. We note
that other operators are introducing stripped down trains or even
proposing to abolish first class. As a train operator we believe
one of our roles in providing new rolling stock is to introduce
the most practically designed trains for our passengers' needs
and comfort. On short commuter journeys this may result in trains
designed to hold a greater volume of standing customers at peak
periods, in a similar manner to London Underground and many other
European urban rail networks.
10. Capacity shortages on the railways are
concentrated around the main commuter hours with many off-peak
services having spare capacity. In broad terms this presents an
economic dilemma for any public transport operator in providing
enough stock to cover the peak periods but having it only in partial
use during the off peak period. The industry is continually concentrating
efforts to try and increase the off-peak market, and in recent
years, with the rise in disposable income and the encouragement
of leisure pursuits in a wider age range, this market has grown.
But there is still available capacity.
11. Go-Ahead believes that one of the solutions
to overcrowding rests with the release of capacity in peak hours.
The congestion through the central London core prevents train
operating companies running a reliable service and leads to delays
and cancellations on popular services. For example in central
London we are currently running on a two track railway and the
congestion on the track in the London Bridge area is amongst the
most acute in the country.
12. Go-Ahead has continued to put forward
short-term proposals to tackle these congestion problems. Thameslink
2000 addresses this issue through the creation of a facility to
run up to 24 trains per hour through the central London core and
also facilitating the use of 12 car trains by extending a variety
of platforms. These proposals would alleviate the worst of the
overcrowding and provide the customer with a more frequent and
13. In order to manage the increased capacity
during peak hours, increased investment is required to provide
an adequate infrastructure that can cope with this increasing
demand and provide a better quality of service. However there
must be a further evaluation of the extent to which the current
real terms fare reductions can be justified whilst major investment
1. There are more than 4.4 billion bus passenger
journeys every year, representing two thirds of journeys made
by public transport. One of Go-Ahead's core areas of experience
and expertise is operating bus services in heavily congested urban
regions. We believe that buses provide a flexible form of public
transport in these crowded cities and moreover provide the solution
to solving the UK's long-term congestion problems.
2. Go-Ahead works closely with Transport
for London and the development of an integrated transport system
to tackle urban congestion. With London General and London Central
operating routes across South and South-West London, Go-Ahead
has a significant presence in the capital's road transport infrastructure.
3. Travel congestion in heavily congested
urban cities, such as London, hinders the ability of transport
operators to run a reliable and efficient service. Bus priority
measures help to ease traffic congestion, help us to provide better
and more reliable bus services for passengers and make better
use of travelling time for our vehicles. Without a doubt, bus
priority measures are essential to ensure a smooth running bus
service for the travelling public.
4. In London, the introduction of the articulated
buses on Red Arrow routes is also helping to alleviate overcrowding
on buses. The new "bendy and cashless" bus services
are able to carry up to 140 people, at least 60 more than a double
deck bus. As passengers have tickets before boarding and can board
or alight from all three doors (as in many cities on the continent)
these buses are helping to make journeys quicker and more reliable.
5. Through the introduction of new bus operating
systems, improved infrastructure and the use of advance technology,
for example Global Positioning Satellite (GPS), we are playing
our part to improve the efficiency of bus services. For example,
in partnership with the local authority, Go-Ahead has introduced
a GPS-based Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system in Brighton
& Hove which links to the city's traffic management system
and delivers "selective priority" to buses at traffic
signals. The resulting improvement in traffic flows and bus reliability
has assisted with bus and road capacity issues.
6. In short if bus services are to get anywhere
near the reliability figures imposed by Traffic Commissioners
and therefore avoid the overcrowding on some buses (which can
occur when a service is disrupted by congestion), much greater
traffic enforcement measures need to be undertaken. Dedicated
bus lanes, priority signalling and parking restrictions are the
most effective measures to providing efficient and reliable bus
service, but "policing" and enforcement are essential
if such systems are to deliver improvements.
7. If extra public transport capacity is
to be provided, the bus delivers the most economic and flexible
option, particularly for shorter journeys, provided that appropriate
road capacity is made consistently available.