Peak rail services at breaking point under privatisation, new overcrowding figures reveal

New overcrowding figures indicate rail services are at breaking point under privatisation. The Rail Executive, part of the Department for Transport (DFT), has found that popular commuter train services in England and Wales are extremely overcrowded during ‘peak’ hours, running at between 58 per cent and 86 per cent over their capacity.

The figures represent a snapshot of the ‘top 10’ services in Autumn 2014, covering arrivals into and departures from 11 major cities during the morning and evening peak hours, on a typical weekday. Top on the list is the 04:22 TransPennine Express service from Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport, running at 86 per cent over capacity, while the 16:00 TransPennine Express service from Manchester Airport to Edinburgh was close behind, at 85 per cent over capacity. To put this into perspective, it means that when measured, there were an extra 164 and 162 passengers on those services, respectively.

Seven of the top 10 were services into London, with the 06:31 First Great Western service from Reading to London Paddington running at 76 per cent over capacity, and the 07:57 Heathrow Express service from London Heathrow to London Paddington over capacity by 71 per cent. The 07:02 and 07:32 South West Trains services  from Woking to London Waterloo were 58 per cent and 60 per cent over their capacity.

While the Rail Executive note the data should be treated with caution as they represent one-off measurements in Autumn 2014, they indicate that many of the most popular services used and relied upon by passengers are close to breaking point. At the same time, rail fares have risen astronomically in recent years, far outstripping rises in wages.

In August Action for Rail published analysis revealing that rail fares for season tickets, and other regulated fares, have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the last five years. The government has announced plans to cap rises in regulated fares at the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation for this parliament. But the Department for Transport’s own figures reveal the cost of the cap to taxpayers will be £700m!

Research commissioned by Action for Rail earlier this year showed that public ownership could save £1.5bn over the next five years,  with savings passed on to passengers and taxpayers – season tickets alone could be 10 per cent cheaper by 2017! A third of the savings (£520m) would come from recouping the money private train companies pay in dividends to their shareholders.

RMT has published new figures which illustrate the massive profits the rolling stock companies (ROSCO’s) are taking from the system, at the same time as passengers are standing packed into overcrowded carriages. In ASLEF’s press release, General Secretary Mick Whelan has said that the figures emphasise the “great failure of rail privatisation, which is that the industry has been unable to deliver the capacity to meet the growing demand.”

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