Memorandum by Department for Transport
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1. Overcrowding on public transport is an
issue the Government takes very seriously. However it is not a
new problem. Commuters on some services have routinely had to
contend with crowding when travelling at peak hours for many decades.
From the point of view of the person left unable to get onto a
vehicle because of overcrowding, the bus or train, or whatever
vehicle it is, might as well not have run, and the fact that it
might have been on time is quite irrelevant. For those on board
overcrowded vehicles, the difficulty of getting a seat can be
a serious problem, especially if they are with young children
and/or carrying shopping. Bad overcrowding not only adversely
affects passenger comfort but also gives rise to a public perception
of potential safety risks. For these reasons service providers
are required to have in place a strategy for addressing overcrowding.
2. It is a key objective for the Strategic
Rail Authority (SRA) to tackle overcrowding on the rail network.
3. There are several reasons for passenger
overcrowding on rail services. There are capacity constraints
on the network, particularly on London and South-East routes,
where 70% of passenger journeys take place, and on the West and
East Coast Main lines. There are more passengers travelling now
than at the time of privatisation and since 1996-97, the number
of passenger kilometres travelled has risen by 22%. Overcrowding
is also exacerbated by delays and cancellations to services.
4. In many places the railway network is
now operating close to maximum capacity. This constrains future
growth and undermines the quality of service that operators can
provide. The Department's 10-Year Plan (published in July 2000)
seeks to address these problems. The Department's report on progress
against the 10 Year Plan was issued on 17 December 2002.
5. The SRA is charged with delivering the
Government's objectives for rail and published its first Strategic
Plan in January 2001. It will be publishing the first update early
next year. The Authority focuses investment on those parts of
the network that suffer the most overcrowding and where the need
for enhancements in infrastructure are most acute.
6. Major projects are underway to increase
capacity and reduce overcrowding. These include the Cross Country
upgrade and the first section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link,
which is scheduled to open in 2003. The SRA recently announced
its strategy for delivering the West Coast Main Line upgrade.
Future projects, such as Thameslink 2000 are being developed to
meet forecast growth in demand. In the longer term additional
capacity could be provided through proposals such as Crossrail.
On 6 November the SRA announced its proposals for reducing the
number of franchises serving key London stations. This will bring
capacity and customer service benefits and thus aid the reduction
The Secretary of State's Directions and Guidance
to the SRA
7. The Authority works to Directions and
Guidance from the Secretary of State, which clearly define its
role and duties. The Directions and Guidance require the SRA to
promote efficiency and economy and set it 12 main objectives.
Of these, its two principal objectives are to work with the rail
industry to achieve substantial lasting improvements in performance;
and to work to deliver the targets in the Department's Ten Year
Plan, which include targeting overcrowding. As part of this the
SRA is engaged in identifying the franchises where capacity and/or
overcrowding problems are most acute and setting out potential
8. The SRA is continuing to develop its
national strategy for the railway within the framework of the
Directions and Guidance and in the light of emerging conclusions
from the consultation exercises it has recently undertaken on
capacity utilisation policy and national fares policy.
SRA's Capacity Utilisation Policy
9. The capacity of the rail network to deal
with increased demand can be assisted by applying a better set
of priorities and better management of the capacity that is currently
available. To this end, the SRA is currently looking at what needs
to be done to make the most of the existing network capacity.
In September 2002, the Authority published a consultation document
on its Capacity Utilisation Policy. The first such exercise of
its kind: the capacity study is investigating all aspects of rail
operationsfrom timetabling to the length and frequency
of trains. The benefits are expected to include reduced overcrowding
achieved by improvements to operating practices, better deployment
of rolling stock and alterations to timetables. The consultation
period came to an end in November and the SRA is currently analysing
the responses it has received and will publish a policy document
SRA's Review of National Fares Policy
10. On 19 July 2002, the SRA initiated a
review of the national fares policy. The review covers a wide
range of issues, which will also include the links between fares,
overcrowding and performance. It published a consultation document
on 19 July 2002. The consultation period ended on 11 October 2002.
The Authority is now considering the responses to its consultation
exercise. Recommendations will be made to Ministers in the New
11. Franchise Operators, whose job it is
to manage overcrowding on a day to day basis, are required by
their franchise agreements to avoid regular, systematic, excessive
overcrowding and are required by the SRA to plan their timetables
so as to ensure that adequate capacity is provided. As train operators
offer a "walk-on" service it is difficult to control
the number of passengers boarding any one train, but the contractual
requirement to provide adequate capacity provides protection for
passengers from systematic under-provision.
12. On commuter services into and out of
London and Edinburgh, where overcrowding occurs regularly at peak
times, the SRA applies specific controls to keep crowding levels
within acceptable limits. In these areas, train operators are
required to plan the provision of services to comply with an SRA
standard known as Passengers in Excess of Capacity (PIXC). This
standard is intended to ensure that the average number of passengers
carried during the peaks does not exceed the nominal capacity
of the rolling stock
provided by more than 4.5% in either the morning or evening peak
taken in isolation, or more than 3% both peaks combined. If passenger
counts for these services demonstrate overcrowding above the PIXC
thresholds, the SRA can require an action plan for dealing with
the capacity shortfall. A similar rule is operated in other cities
by the Passenger Transport Authorities.
13. In 2001, nearly half a million people
travelled by train into London each morning. This is the highest
figure since the late 1980s. Despite this growth in use at peak
times, overcrowding has decreased on eight out of the 10 London
franchises since spring 2001, and the number of operators that
have exceeded the PIXC threshold has fallen from five to four.
14. Crowding on the London Underground can
be a particular problem in certain locations at certain times
of day. It is an issue that LUL takes very seriously. Services
are planned to minimise journey times and delays caused by crowding.
Day-to-day operational management is focused on ensuring that
the safety risks are as low as reasonably practical, and that
services are run reliably, to minimise crowding.
15. Customer perceptions of train and platform
crowding are measured quarterly in London Underground's Customer
Satisfaction Survey along with 17 other service attributes. The
average satisfaction scores in the year to date are 71 (Train
Crowding) and 73 (Platform Crowding) out of 100 which is an improvement
on scores for 2001/02 (69 and 72 respectively). LUL also measure
crowding levels on trains and at busy stations on a quarterly
basis, and customer usage data is updated annually.
16. In the context of increasing demand,
London Underground has sought to address crowding by increasing
service volumes. In the last five years they have increased the
operated service by over 3 million train kilometres, including
a half-million train kilometres increase in peak service volumes.
In a sense LU is a victim of its own success, as service improvements
have led to additional demand, absorbing some of the generated
17. Every London Underground station has
its own plan for managing emergencies and congestion. These plans
detail particular local characteristics such as pinch-points and
set out the procedures to deal with situations of severe crowding.
Station staff (assisted by CCTV and other technology) actively
monitor levels of station crowding, so that action can be taken
to prevent dangerous situations occurring. Typically the response
to a build up in crowding will be to restrict flows to platforms
by stopping escalators, reversing ticket gates or even temporarily
closing station entrances. This is a regular occurrence at some
central London stations (eg Victoria). London Underground believe
this process is effective and there have been very few reportable
injuries due to crowding in the last five years.
18. Train crowding is largely self-regulating
with train capacity as the de facto control on crowding levelsie
people prefer to wait for the next train rather than board a very
crowded train. Trains, their braking systems, and signalling systems
are all designed to operate safely under conditions which are
more crowded than are experienced in practice. Crowding on trains
is also affected by uneven distributions of customers along platforms,
customers with luggage/baggage taking up space and general customer
behaviour such as not moving down inside the cars. Occasional
reliability problems lead to uneven intervals between trains resulting
in some being more crowded than others.
19. Managing crowding is part of the day-to-day
working life for Underground staff. Addressing the overall levels
of crowding is another issue. In the short term, London Underground
is pursuing measures to improve reliability and therefore maximise
delivery of scheduled capacity. In the longer term, line upgrades
delivered by the PPP will provide an increase in peak capacity,
which together with improvements in asset availability will be
sufficient to meet increasing demand over the next 15 years without
significantly worse crowding. A programme of station congestion
relief projects will also be undertaken as funding and the planning
process allow. However, really dramatic reductions in Underground
crowding require major new infrastructure projectssome
of which, such as Crossrail and Thameslink 2000 are under consideration
for future development.
20. In the West Midlands, Midland Metro
does not have any overcrowding problems on their Metro services
and in the North East; overcrowding is generally not an issue
for the Tyne and Wear Metro.
21. In London, the Docklands Light Rail
is becoming very crowded as the occupancy of Canary Wharf increasesparticularly
the Lewisham to Canary Wharf line. That said, the situation is
being addressed. A capacity enhancement project has begun, moving
from two to three car operation and works involving new railcars,
changes to depot facilities, and some station/platform alterations
are all being promoted with a tentative estimate for completion
22. Sheffield's tram system is said to be
nearly at capacity and gets very busy at peak times. When this
is combined with people travelling to events (for example at HillsboroughSheffield
Wednesdayor the Sheffield Arena) then overcrowding does
happen and passengers may not be able to board the first tram
that stops at their station. The trams do run every 10 minutes
and so people generally wait for the next tram and the situation
is quickly alleviated.
23. The Sheffield Tram system has 25 trams
of which 23 are normally in daily use. One tram is always in for
servicing/checking and the remaining tram on standby. The 23 trams
mean there is a tram every 10 minutesin times of severe
overcrowding the standby tram can be used to increase the frequency
slightly, but this can only be done on one of the three lines.
SYPTE say that more trams could theoretically be put on the network.
However, as the system includes on-road running its impact would
need to be assessedthere are already some pinch points
where trams get stuck in trafficand of course, there would
have to be a financial case for buying more trams.
24. In the North West, there is overcrowding
on Phase 1 of Manchester Metrolink during peak times and GMPTE
submitted a bid in 2000 to the Department, for funding for additional
vehicles. It was initially hoped that these would be second hand
vehicles from San Francisco but they were found to be unsuitable
and GMPTE is now trying to broker a deal to obtain vehicles from
Bonn, subject to them being able to release surplus vehicles on
delivery of new stock. Funding is being held back subject to GMPTA
reporting satisfactory progress on acquiring the vehicles.
25. There is overcrowding at times on the
Blackpool Tramway, but it is very seasonal due to the nature of
the tourist trade. The other two systems in the North West at
Birkenhead and Heaton Park (Manchester) are purely for leisure
use and do not have an overcrowding problem.
26. The Public Service Vehicles (Carrying
Capacity) Regulations 1984 set out the requirements for determining
how many passengers may stand or sit on buses and coaches. The
number of passengers that can be carried on a given bus or coach,
whether standing or seated, must be clearly marked within the
vehicle and should not be exceeded. Management of crowding can
be achieved by adhering to, and enforcing these figures.
27. For bus operators, outside London, the
under-utilisation of buses is the area of concern, and not overcrowding.
In looking at how to attract more customers onto buses, successive
customer surveys on satisfaction with buses, doesn't suggest that
overcrowding is a major cause of dissatisfaction with services
but that routing, frequency of service and reliability tend to
be the focus of concern.
28. In London the provision of bus services
is the responsibility of the Mayor and Transport for London. There
is currently strong growth in bus patronage on the London Bus
Network and this is forecast to continue. Growth is occurring
in all areas and at all times of the day and days of the week.
29. TfL is expanding and enhancing the network
to meet the demand and the requirements of the Mayor's Transport
Strategy. Major enhancements have been made to the London Buses
network, more are being implemented in advance of the introduction
of the central London congestion charge in February 2003 and there
are further enhancements planned for 2003-04.
30. TfL undertakes regular, extensive monitoring
of the demand on London's bus network, with a view to identifying
specific problems early. This is achieved through substantive
usage surveys and regular contact with all London's local authorities
and other stakeholders such as LTUC, user groups, schools, hospitals,
business and resident associations across the capital. Direct
feedback from customers who contact TfL via customer services
teams is also reviewed.
31. Services are regularly reviewed to ensure
they continue to meet passenger needs and the levels of demand.
Services are planned to provide adequate capacity at the peak
time, in the peak direction. So that passengers can board the
first bus to arrive, services are planned on the basis that the
average load per bus in the busiest hour does not exceed 70-80%
of the total capacity of the buses on that route. This allows
for very busy journeys within the peak hour. There are some exceptionally
busy stops (for example outside mainline rail terminals) where
this will not be achievable. In these cases, service frequencies
are planned so that passengers can expect to wait no more than
ten minutes before boarding a bus.
32. Poor service reliability has a significant
impact on overcrowding. To this end TfL has invested significantly
in measures that assist bus operation by reducing the impact of
traffic congestion and delays (eg priority measures, enforcement,
33. Unlike the other transport modes, aviation
and shipping do not provide a walk on service. Overcrowding is
therefore not considered to be an issue, as passenger numbers
are more strictly controlled.
2 Each type of rolling stock used on the network has
a nominal capacity, based on the standards formerly set by British
Rail. In summary, all passengers are expected to have seats for
journeys of over 20 minutes. For shorter journeys a train will
usually count as being overcrowded when more then 30% of passengers
are standing. Back