Memorandum by London Underground Ltd (OPT
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1. London Underground recognises the importance
of the issue of crowding on the Underground network. The level
of crowding has implications for customer comfort and journey
times, and of course for the safety of customers and staff. We
seek to manage all safety risks, including those associated with
crowding to a level where the risk is as low as reasonably practicable.
2. We recognise that parts of the network
are heavily crowded at various times of day, usually the commuter
peaks, and that this is a cause of concern for our customers.
In a recent survey 19% of those asked to suggest improvements
to London Underground cited Crowding. (This made reduced crowding
the 4th most frequently cited improvement after service frequency
and reliabilityboth factors that directly impact on the
level of crowding.)
Accordingly, customer satisfaction with levels of crowding is
low compared to satisfaction with other aspects of the service.
For example, satisfaction with Crowding averages around 70, whereas
satisfaction with Safety and Security tends to average around
78. Table 1 presents customer satisfaction scores for train and
platform crowding over the last five years.
Figures for demand (customer journeys) and service volumes (train
kms operated) are included for reference.
Table 1: Customer Satisfaction Survey
Results and Customer Journeys
|CSS Service attribute (score 0-100)
|Demand and Supply (millions)
|Train kms (operated)||61.2
Sources: LU Customer Satisfaction Survey: Quarter
2 results 2002-03, October 2002, LU Annual Reports and Business
Plans 2002-03 figures are year to date actuals for CSS and full
year forecast for Customer Journeys and Train Kms.
3. Table 1 shows that demand increased dramatically in
the late 1990s and this
is reflected in falling platform crowding scores. Train crowding
scores have however been maintained and improved, reflecting the
increase in service volumes introduced to meet the higher levels
of demand. Recent scores may indicate recognition of the effect
on crowding of the increase in peak service volumes resulting
from new timetables on the Central and Northern lines and the
significant improvement in reliability, benefiting customers on
all lines. Just as crowding is an important issue for our customers,
so it is an important issue for London Underground in planning
and operating the service.
4. This document discusses the safety risks and operational
management of crowding, and briefly outlines our plans to tackle
crowding through service improvement. In presenting this, we generally
refer to levels of `crowding' rather than `overcrowding'. This
is not because we do not recognise overcrowding as a problem,
rather, it is simply because `overcrowding' refers to a situation
of excess over a defined limit, and that limit can be defined
in a variety of ways, which will inevitably include an element
of subjectivity and semantic argument. Definitions of `overcrowding'
could be based on performance against a certain percentage of
design capacity, or ratios of standees to sitting or standees
to crush capacity. Some customers will consider a train heavily
crowded even when there are only a few standees, while others
will only think a train highly crowded when they are unable to
board and left waiting for the next one.
5. The level of crowding is essentially the result of
the extent to which supplied capacity can accommodate customer
demand. Actions that impact on demand or supply will have consequences
for the level of crowding.
6. Demand can be seen as having three dimensions: total,
spatial and temporal. The total level of demand is partly a function
of price but primarily a function of exogenous economic factors,
notably central London employment, tourism, income and population.
Total demand is not uniformly spread: land use patterns determine
the spatial dimension, while seasonal, economic and lifestyle
factors determine the temporal dimension. LUL/TfL have a limited
ability to influence demand. The Mayor's fares policy is the only
real tool available, but raising fares in real terms is regarded
as socially undesirable. Limited forms of price discrimination
can be used to influence the temporal demand spread, such as the
discounted off-peak Travelcard, and the new smartcards will permit
further options, `early-bird' or reverse flow discounts for example.
While these options can influence demand at the margin, the power
of exogenous drivers means that overall ability to affect crowding
through the demand side is limited.
7. There are two dimensions to supply: capability and
reliability. LUL has far greater ability to control these supply
factors than demand. Capability depends on the volumes of service
scheduled, while reliability is the ability to deliver that schedule.
When the railway is running reliably there are fewer cancellations
(hence more trains available for customer use and shorter intervals
between them) and the intervals between trains are consistent.
This means that loadings on both trains and platforms will be
more even; a reason for the importance we place on reliability.
At present most lines operate central area peak services to the
maximum the infrastructure constraint will allow, and reliability
levels have improved over the last two years as a result of various
reliability initiatives. (It should be remembered that a `side-effect'
of these service improvements is an increase in demand, which
absorbs some of the additional capacity.)
8. This suggests that pursuing a reliable high-frequency
service is the best way to influence crowding. Day to day tactical
management of crowding therefore combines seeking to maximise
reliability over a line as a whole and active local management
9. London Underground employs sophisticated models to
assess levels of safety risk associated with 16 top-level safety
events. Crowding contributes 8% of the overall network risk of
a customer fatality arising as a result of LUL's operations. The
main causes of crowding arise from stations being very busy as
a result of:
Special events, eg sporting events.
Peak customer rush hours.
Delays to the train service.
Trains held in platforms.
Nearby station(s) closed.
Platform access problems.
These situations can lead to increased crowd levels which
can lead to:
Falls down stairs and escalators.
Falls off the platform.
Crushing on the platforms.
Falls from the train when boarding/alighting or
between train and platform.
Heat exhaustion in the event of a crowded train
being stalled within a tunnel.
Limbs becoming trapped in the doors.
The main safety measures in place to reduce these risks are
10. In the last five years, there have been no fatalities
associated with crowding, and very few reportable major injuries.
The following is a summary of incident statistics associated with
crowding issues which resulted in injury over the last five years:
1 reported incident resulting in a major injury
12 reported incidents of minor injuries on or
23 reported incidents of minor injuries on platforms
due to crowding (eg involving station furniture/structure) and
one incident resulting in major injury.
17 reported incidents resulting in minor injury
from falls between train and platform whilst boarding or alighting
and one incident resulting in a major injury.
56 reported in-car incidents where congestion
may have contributed to customers receiving minor injuries when
their limbs (arms/hands) were caught in the doors and one reported
incident resulting in a major injury.
11. Each station on the network has produced an emergency
and congestion plan, which ensures that all issues relating to
emergency planning and control of congestion are covered. Each
plan details the pinch points on the station, and defines the
measure by which each individual station would be classified as
congested. LUL's Safety Quality and Environment department have
validated all these plans, and the Health and Safety Executive
have validated LUL's overall safety case.
12. If at any time a station reaches the predetermined
definition of congestion, the crowd control procedures within
our operational rulebook are put into operation. These are tried
and tested procedures for cordoning off or evacuating stations.
All staff have training and familiarisation in these areas.
13. The general rule of thumb that staff are trained
to observe is that once free movement along the back of the platform
is lost at any point on that platform, crowd control measures
should be introduced. A graded response applies. For example,
if it is known by the station staff that a train is due on that
platform within the next few seconds, the best response is to
wait for that train to clear the platform congestion. Otherwise,
staff may take an escalator out of use to slow the flow of people
to the platform. Alternatively, some of the ticket gates may be
reversed to favour exiting flows and slow the flow into the station
until the level of crowding can be alleviated by the passage of
trains. If necessary, staff will actually close parts of the station,
or some or all of the entrances. These measures are supported
by announcements at relevant stations to inform customers that
delays are likely and to advise of alternative routes.
14. Almost all stations on the network have fully comprehensive
CCTV facilities, all have radio communication and public address
systems, and many stations are equipped with dedicated station
control rooms to direct crowd control operations, and liase with
line control and neighbouring stations. All stations have staffing
levels appropriate to the level of station usage, and we have
recently introduced SATS (Station Assistant Train Services) to
many of the busiest platforms. These are dedicated platform staff
who manage the boarding and alighting of trains and encourage
customers to use the full lengths of platforms to avoid crowds
building up in parts of the platforms. Crucially, SATS are supported
by radio based public address (PA) systems that do not require
them to remain in a fixed place on the platform, thus they are
able to move freely along the platform and make announcements
at the same time.
15. Crowd control procedures are implemented on a daily
basis at some of our stations (Victoria being a notable example)
and staff at those stations are experienced in managing these
situations. A consequence of that experience and training is that
staff tend to be able to predict the build up of congestion, and
proactively take appropriate actions to slow flows.
16. Overall, we believe that the process is both procedurally
robust and in practice works well on the ground. This is not to
say that we have got it right every timethere have been
a few occasions where customers, or other informed observers such
as railway inspectors, have fed back to us that crowding has got
beyond the point we would normally want it to. (This is often
because crowding has suddenly arisen at a station that is not
used to it and less experienced staff have misjudged the point
at which crowd control should be introducedeg national
rail network problems causing a surge at a quiet suburban station.)
These incidents are treated seriously with investigation and appropriate
action, such as refresher training.
17. Our engineering and safety standards ensure that
trains, their braking systems and the signalling system are designed
such that a fully loaded train is a safe train. This essentially
means that the control on train crowding is train capacity itself
(the alternative, placing a member of staff at every door to count
on customers, would be highly impractical). It should be understood
that even though trains are built to be safe at design capacity,
in practice, even on the busiest sections of line, actual train
loadings do not reach design capacity.
18. Loading and crowding on individual trains will greatly
depend on the regularity of the service. Consistent intervals
between trains tends to ensure even loading, whereas the first
train following an irregularly long gap is likely to become more
crowded, which in turn will lead to longer boarding/alighting
times, slowing the train even more. Meanwhile a train immediately
behind may well be much less crowded.
19. In addition the centre cars on a train tend to be
more crowded than those at the front and back. Customer behaviour
(clustering in the door vestibules, not standing down to allow
access, anticipating platform exits, etc) means that crowding
levels can vary within a car and between cars, as well as between
20. Even though loading is well below design capacities,
it is nevertheless true that some trains can get unpleasantly
crowded. In normal operation however, exposure to these conditions
is usually only for a short period of time. Nonetheless, if customers
do feel unwell for any reason, it is possible to alert the Train
Operator using the passenger emergency alarm, which on most new
and refurbished trains includes a facility to talk directly to
the Operator. (However, while this facility is available, we would
advise customers feeling unwell to alight at the next station
and seek help, and only use the alarm if it is a real emergency
because of the delay alarm activations could cause to following
21. We recognise that the effects of high levels of crowding
are likely to be more felt if exposure is prolonged, particularly
if a train is stationary in a tunnel for longer than usual. On
a very crowded train, humidity and temperature will rise and some
customers may experience breathing difficulties. Our first priority
is always the safety of our customers and staff. In the first
instance this means we will seek to avoid trains becoming stuck
in tunnels, eg at the first sign of an incident controllers will
try to bring all trains behind the incident/failure train into
a platform and hold them there. On those odd occasions where we
are not able to achieve that and a train is trapped in a tunnel
section, we will wait no longer than a quarter of an hour before
commencing detrainment procedures leading to walking people out
through the tunnel. We will not just leave customers on a train
until the incident is resolved. Staff have a quarter of an hour
to rectify the cause of the delay, but then we start making arrangements
to take off the current, get staff to the trapped train, and then
walk people out. Where
a train is trapped for an extended period, ambulances will be
summoned to the nearest station(s) to be available should any
customers require medical attention.
22. As with our procedures for managing station crowding,
we believe that our approach is effective in minimising the risks
to customers. While train crowding in normal conditions is generally
self-regulating, controllers do seek to maintain regular intervals
between trains and avoid impacts of earlier incidents reducing
peak services. Occasionally more direct intervention will be used,
such as holding a train spare for large expected crowds (eg following
football matches) or turning trains short of their booked destination
to provide relief in the other direction. There is also close
interaction between train and station controllers to ensure stations
can clear platforms before a heavily loaded train arrives.
Planning context: actions to address crowding
23. As discussed above, the level of crowding is a response
to the service supplied and the level of customer demand. We are
most able to affect crowding through the supply side, and the
same measures intended to meet customers' demands for a frequent
and reliable service, also address crowding. The strategic management
of crowding rests on increasing the capacity of the Underground
and the London public transport system as a whole.
24. In the short term this means continuing the focus
on reliability to maximise performance within the existing infrastructure
constraints. As noted above we have increased operated service
volumes by 3 million train kilometres (5.5%) in the last five
years, with measures
to address the causes of unreliability a significant contributor.
(For example the number of peak cancellations due to non-availability
of train operators averaged 8 per peak in 2000-01, but is now
regularly less than 3 per week).
25. The reliability focus will be taken forward under
the Public Private Partnership (PPP) through improved maintenance
regimes and the renewal of assets, as asset incidents currently
account for approximately 70% of delays over two minutes.
26. The PPP will also deliver a significant increase
in capability through a programme of line upgrades combining renewal
and enhancement of assets, taking capacity to the limits of what
is possible with proven technology and 19th century tunnel structures.
Line upgrades involve some combination of more trains, faster
trains, and more capacious trains with the exact solution depending
on the characteristics of the line. (For example the Jubilee line
upgrade is likely to involve increasing the total fleet size and
adding an additional car to each train in addition to signalling
work, while the Northern line upgrade is likely to involve resignalling
and improved control but no changes to rolling stock.) We anticipate
the line upgrade programme to deliver a peak capacity increase
of roughly 15% over the next 15 years.
27. At the same time however, projections of a strong
London economy as set out in the London Plan mean that Underground
demand is likely to increase by 15-17%.
Our projections also show that the increase in demand over the
next 30 years will be roughly matched by increases in the service
resulting from the line upgrades and improved reliability. In
overall terms, this means that while peak crowding levels are
unlikely to worsen; they are not expected to show significant
improvement from today's levels. This being said, it should be
understood that land use patterns will create pinch points of
heavy crowding at particular locations at particular times of
28. Much of the overall demand increase is expected to
be in off peak travel. Here there is much more flexibility to
increase service volumes to meet demand since infrastructure constraints
are less evident. We will continue the successful policy of the
last decade to increase off-peak frequencies in a manner sensitive
29. However, dramatic reductions in crowding levels ultimately
can only be achieved through the construction of new lines (though
even then, new demand generated by infrastructure will absorb
some of the new capacity.) LUL supports the Mayor's advocacy of
the Crossrail schemes; proposals for intermediate modes; and improvements
to Bus services and we look forward to all these schemes being
progressed. It is important to recognise that the different schemes
will have different impacts on the Underground network: Crossrail
1 will particularly relieve pressure on east-west routes, notably
the Central and Hammersmith & City lines. Crossrail 2 will
relieve pressure on the central sections of the Victoria and Piccadilly
lines, while Thameslink 2000 and the Cross-River Transit scheme
would particularly assist the Northern and Bakerloo lines.
30. In addition to the line upgrade programme, LUL will
be embarking on a major programme of station and interchange congestion
relief projects. These projects involve major rebuilding of existing
stations to widen passageways, provide additional escalators,
provide step free access, improve circulating space and expand
ticket halls. This type of work is currently underway at stations
including Kings Cross St Pancras (to meet CTRL demand) and Brixton,
and are planned for many central London stations including Tottenham
Court Road, Camden Town and Victoria among others. Providing increased
station capacity not only relieves congestion and delay at the
stations in question, but also benefits the whole line by ensuring
platforms are cleared quickly to allow trains to arrive and unload/load
in quick succession. The emphasis of these, and other journey
time related projects, is to minimise customer travel time: crowding
is modelled and appraised as part of this.
The station congestion relief programme will be taken forward
as quickly as funding and particularly planning procedures will
31. We recognise that crowding is a feature of travel
on the London Underground, and this is part of the nature of operating
a high frequency urban mass transit system. We are also very conscious
that at certain times and in certain locations, crowding can make
journeys unpleasant for customers. However, the safety risks are
managed to be as low as reasonably practicable and we will continue
to ensure we have the best procedures in place to safely meet
the daily challenges of crowding. We also have clear plans to
increase network capability and reliability. Delivery on these
plans will mitigate the effects of the projected increase in demand
on crowding and deliver on our aim to help customers move swiftly
Source: London Underground (2002) Londoner's Survey: Wave 4,
March 2002. Back
In addition to using the Customer Satisfaction measure, we also
measure crowding levels on trains and at busy stations on a quarterly
basis, and customer usage data is updated annually. Back
Overall growth of 25% was experienced between 1996-97 and 2000-01. Back
As defined by RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous
Occurrences Regulations 1995). Back
It should be understood that this does not mean a train is completely
emptied a quarter of an hour after the start of an incident, it
means that detrainment procedures should commence after a quarter
of an hour with the last customer walked out as quickly afterwards
as it is safely possible to do so. Back
Excluding increases due to the Jubilee Line Extension (approximately
6.8 million km increase including JLE). Back
Average based on periods 6-8 2002-03, includes rolling stock
and temporary speed restrictions as well as other asset incidents. Back
GLA (2001) The London Plan: The Mayor's Draft Spatial Development
Crowding parameters are based on quarterly samples of platform
crowding, which can be expressed as the percentage chance of boarding
a train with all seats full etc. These figures, broad averages
across whole lines, are reported quarterly and submitted to the
TfL Rail Transport Advisory Panel. Back