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Rail firms have no idea just how bad overcrowding is

10 April 2012

Rail companies have no idea just how overcrowded their "cattle truck" commuter trains are, a leading rail union disclosed today.

The privately owned operators have no firm data on passengers numbers during the morning and evening peaks, said the TSSA.

Unpublished evidence to the Transport Committee revealed that rail regulators have to rely on estimates about the severity of overcrowding on UK rail services, said union general secretary Manuel Cortes.

He is now writing to the Transport Secretary urging her to instruct the companies to gather data which would record overcrowding on their trains.

"We have a ridiculous situation for passengers in the 21st century," he said.

"They have to travel in cattle truck conditions with no limits on overcrowding while cattle travel under regulations which restrict overcrowding.

"Every Transport Secretary says they want to end overcrowding, particularly in the South-East. How can they even begin to do this until they known the exact size of the problem?"

The lack of any hard figures on overcrowding was disclosed at a meeting between rail regulators and the Commons Transport Select Committee last month.

Anna Walker, chair of the ORR, admitted the Office of Rail Regulation had no real figures on overcrowding even though Ministers are talking about new "top peak" fares in an effort to ease the morning and evening rush hours.

"There are estimates but that is all they are," she said. "One of of things that is really crucial on the question of crowding is the need for investment in ticketing machines so that we have real information in the way we do not at the moment about the numbers on each service.

"We do not have that and we need more electronic ticketing services to get that."

The TSSA will also be objecting to plans for even higher peak fares in its response to the Government's recent Command Paper next month.

"British passengers already pay the highest fares in the Western World so the idea they should pay even more to ease overcrowding during peak times is a complete nonsense," he added.

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