Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Annex A

SAFETY AND OVERCROWDING ON LONDON PEAK SERVICES

  (a)  Traditionally on the London commuter network trains were operated at their maximum possible length throughout the rush hour, eg from 0600-0900 and 1600-1900. This meant that some trains loaded well below their capacity. However it also meant that passengers had a realistic choice between comfort and time of travel. If a passenger particularly valued getting a seat, then by travelling (say) half an hour earlier or later they could have one. Unfortunately, at least from the passengers' viewpoint, the Monopolies Commission report (1980) into BR's London and South East operation strongly criticised this practice and said that train lengths should be tailored to demand.

  (b)  Accordingly, BR changed its policy. The upshot, to give an example, was that where all south-eastern suburban trains into Charing Cross and Cannon Street had been 10 cars, many were reduced to eight or six, and many trains from the same area into Victoria and Blackfriars were reduced from eight to six or even four cars. The stock thus released enabled a cascade around the system and a lot of old stock was withdrawn without replacement.

  (c)  Today's passengers are now reaping the fruits of this policy. With demand having increased, not only are the full length trains operating at the height of the peak overcrowded, but so are the shorter trains running earlier and later. The infrastructure is there for these trains to be lengthened. The rolling stock is not, but it could be quite soon because new stock now being delivered for outer area services could release older stock for peak period use on less heavily loaded suburban trains. Thus, for example eight cars of older stock could replace a four car train of modern stock, which in turn would enable a six car train to be lengthened to 10 cars.

  (d)  Extending the life of old rolling stock and using it for limited daily mileage is a well established way of quickly meeting rising demand, but in this case it is not possible because the stock concerned is Mk 1, which by legislative decree must be withdrawn from service by the end of 2002 or be expensively fitted with "cup and cone" equipment (which would only be effective if it collided with another Mk 1 train—whereas the chance of a collision with anything will be reduced by TPWS) but still be withdrawn by the end of 2004. Never before (at least within living memory) have trains which would be physically capable of further service been subject to compulsory withdrawal.

  (e)  It is legitimate to ask which option an informed public would prefer; a small safety enhancement of an already safe system, or a quick improvement in the comfort of their daily journeys to work?


 
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