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‘Rush hour hell’ faced by Londoners on capital’s most overcrowded train lines

ggsThe “rush-hour hell” faced by hundreds of thousands of rail commuters was laid bare today, with new figures showing that more than four in 10 are forced to stand on their way to work on some services.

Thameslink’s 0700 Brighton to Bedford service was the busiest peak train in the capital in spring last year.

It reached its most crowded point with around 960 passengers on board when it called at Blackfriars at 8.20am.

The figure represents more than twice the train’s capacity of 420 passengers.

In autumn, the 0657 service on the same route again topped the overcrowded list.

Thameslink Beckenham Junction to Bedford service, South West Trains’ route from Woking to London Waterloo and Great Western Railway’s train from Didcot Parkway to London Paddington.

The figures were revealed today in a new report published by the Department for Transport, which listed the ten most overcrowded routes in England and Wales in the spring and autumn of 2015.

In the report, the DfT said: “Many of the services on this list are on the Thameslink route. The Government has sponsored a £6.5billion programme of investment to upgrade the Thameslink track infrastructure and to provide over 1,300 new coaches.

“This will enable 24 trains per hour to operate the Thameslink core in central London between Blackfriars and St Pancras at the busiest time. The programme is due for completion in 2018 and will significantly reduce crowding on Thameslink routes.”

The Brighton to Bedford train service operated as an eight-car train during 2015 but in 2016, would contain 50 per cent more coaches and run as a 12-car train, the DfT said.

In both periods, it was more than 500 passengers over capacity.

The 0732 Woking to London Waterloo train was more than 480 passengers over capacity in both spring and autumn with more than 1,000 passengers onboard the 12-carriage train.

According to the annual rail passenger figures, eight out of the ten most overfull services in spring were those travelling into London, while the other two were routes between Manchester and Scotland.

In the autumn, six of the most overcrowded routes were into London, while the other four were between Manchester and Scotland.

Carshalton and Wallington Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said: “These figures confirm that Londoners are suffering rush-hour hell conditions akin to those in cattle trucks.

“It’s confirmation the services have deteriorated and they are having to pay more for the privilege.”

More than 580,000 passengers arrived in London by train on a typical morning peak last autumn, an increase of 3.2 per cent over the previous year.

Rail minister Paul Maynard said: “These statistics reveal the unprecedented scale of passenger demand, with journeys doubling in the past 20 years.”

He said a record £40 billion was being invested into the network, which would deliver 3,700 extra carriages by 2019 and providing a huge boost to capacity through programmes like HS2, Crossrail, and the £6.5 billion Thameslink programme.

But many passengers, especially on Southern trains which have been hit with major disruption, are furious at the level of service they are receiving.

Croydon South Conservative MP Chris Philp said: “Overcrowding is a big problem which is blighting the daily lives of commuters, especially on Southern routes.”

David Sidebottom, Transport Focus’s passenger director, added: “Overcrowding is a daily struggle for many commuters. Our latest rail passenger survey found that only 52 per cent of commuters were satisfied with the amount of room they had to sit or stand on the train.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said: “We understand passengers’ frustration when they can’t get a seat and we as an industry are working hard together to tackle overcrowding.

“Over the past 20 years, record numbers of passengers have been attracted to the railway, which is why we are introducing thousands of new and modern carriages.”

London and the south-east accounted for around 70 per cent of all journeys and recorded the highest growth in the past year.

The biggest number of journeys was on Govia Thameslink Railway, the country’s largest franchise of Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern, followed by South West Trains.

More than a million people travelled to London on a typical day last year, compared with 125,000 for Birmingham, the next largest.

The figures show that 30 per cent of passengers arriving at London stations between 8am and 9am have to stand, up from 26 per cent in 2011.

During the evening rush hour, between 5pm and 6pm, 17 per cent of passengers leaving London stations have to stand, up from 14 per cent in 2011.

In London, more than 160,000 additional passengers travelled by train compared with autumn 2011, the figures showed.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “It’s long been our contention that privatisation has failed to deliver for rail passengers in Britain. We’re disappointed – but not surprised – by these figures.”