Supplementary note by the Rail Passengers'
Council (OPT 19A)
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1. Subsequent to the oral evidence provided
by Mr Smith and Mr O'Friel at the hearing on overcrowding held
on 8 January 2003, there was some media coverage concerning research,
that we are considering commissioning, into the effects of overcrowding
on passengers' stress levels. This coverage stemmed from our memorandum
to the Transport Committee in which we made passing reference
to a literature review on the effects of overcrowding on passenger
stress. This preliminary report carried out on our behalf by the
University of NottinghamRail Passenger Stress and Healthis
enclosed for reference.
2. The preliminary report highlighted the
paucity of research work on the effect of overcrowding on people
in general and the effects of overcrowding on rail passengers'
stress levels in particular. However, the report, based on relevant
research that has been published, raises some interesting points.
The report suggests that situations in which there is a high density
of people and those that are perceived as crowded are not necessarily
the same thing ie in the same situation, different people
may perceive the level of overcrowding differently. It also suggests
that this perception is partly determined by the stress that the
high-density situation induces. The report highlights a difficulty
in establishing a rigid definition of overcrowding on public transport,
but suggests that passengers' perception is a crucial factor to
understand. The report goes on to suggest that the perception
of crowding is contingent upon other aspects of such situationseg
journey time; the degree of control passengers are able to exert
in a high-density situation (eg the ability to choose a seat,
and control proximity to other passengers); the stage of overcrowding
(or otherwise) at which a passenger joins the situation; the unpredictability
of events; the role of staff; and the perception of spaciousness.
Isolating the effect of overcrowding on passenger stress from
other factors appears to be far from simple.
3. In the light of the preliminary report,
there appears to be scope for specific research into the effect
of overcrowding on rail passengers. The Rail Passengers Council
is now considering how best to proceed with this work.
20 January 2003