Memorandum by Railway Development SocietyNorth
East Branch (OPT 12)
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
In the time available, it has not proved possible
to address this important topic in any detail. However, it is
hoped that during the course of its hearings, the Transport Committee
will find opportunity to explore the following areas of concern:
1. Overcrowding on the railway takes two
main forms; too many trains squeezed onto key routes and too many
passengers into key trains. Both can be exacerbated by service
and infrastructure unreliability.
2. Overcrowding from whatever cause diminishes
the quality of the rail travel experience and hence works against
the key transport objective of achieving modal shift from road
to rail. Such transfer is essential for all the well documented
reasons of safety, environmental protection and enhancement of
the quality of life for individuals and the whole community.
3. Overcrowding on the railways is not a
phenomenon restricted to commuter trains or to trains in the South
East of England; it is suffered on many long distance trains and
on commuter trains throughout the country. Railway investment
and development policy should reflect this geographical distribution
of the overcrowding problem.
4. Overcrowding on the road network is called
congestion. Road congestion is used to justify major public investment
in new and widened roads; overcrowding should attract similar
public investment in the rail network.
5. Overcrowding on the railway in many cases
has resulted from an imbalance between the demand for commercial
return, not imposed on the road network, and the need to provide
quality travel. As well as the passenger and freight growth targeted
in the 10 Year Plan, the restoration of this balance should be
a national objective. To aid the resolution of overcrowding problems,
the targets should reflect numbers of journeys as well as distance
6. Route overcrowding would often be relieved
by the development of alternative or parallel rail routes. Alternative
or parallel routes would also reduce the need to revert to road
transport when maintenance work demands track possession. Such
routes are often already available, or would require only limited
route re-opening, but all such routes require re-engineering to
7. Train overcrowding in many areas would
be relieved by longer and more frequent trains at peak travel
periods; both are amenable to resolution by investment in plant
and in people. A sustainable future demands balanced investment
in both revenue and capital undertakings.
8. "More frequent trains" is a
policy with many attractions, as the take-up of the new Cross
Country services demonstrates. Achieving this increased service
frequency by reducing the train length, however, has exacerbated
the existing overcrowding on many sections of the Cross Country
network; investment in longer trains for many of these services
is clearly needed.
9. Fares policy has long been used on the
railway to manage peak travel demand. It should not be further
exploited until road charging is introduced to manage peak traffic
flows on the road network. This is but one of the many areas where
an integrated approach to transport would pay national dividends.
10. Overcrowding in other areas of public
transport is equally unacceptable. The common thread is the need
to develop the quality and quantity of public transport provision,
such that the train, tram or bus become the mode of choice for
many journeys currently made by car; only then will it be possible
to develop communities in which people will be seen to take precedence.
The Branch looks forward to reading the results
of the inquiry in due course.