OVERCROWDING ON

 

FIRST GREAT WESTERN’S

 

LONDON SUBURBAN

 

SERVICES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27 February 2011

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


THE AREA OF OUR CONCERN

 

 

Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group, (EPTUG) monitored 5 stations on the line.

 

Acton Mainline served by two trains per hour running between Paddington and Greenford, (where platform constraints dictate that longer trains cannot operate). The Greenford service is the “Cinderella” FGW service often cancelled when unforeseen shortages of rolling stock or operational delays occur. When this happens unscheduled stops are made by other trains.

 

Ealing Broadway a major interchange with London Underground’s Central and District Lines. The station is believed to be used by 22 million passengers per annum placing the station in terms of passenger usage close to that of Glasgow Central, the second busiest mainline provincial station in the UK. It is served by 8 trains per hour.

 

West Ealing is served by the 2, two coach trains serving Greenford each hour and 2, five coach Heathrow Connect trains.

 

Hanwell is served by the two, five coach Heathrow Connect trains each hour.

 

Southall is an increasingly busy station served by two FGW trains, (usually three coaches) and two Heathrow Connect Trains each hour.

 

Beyond Southall is Hayes and Harlington Station, served by six trains per hour, and West Drayton, Langley and Slough. The Heathrow Connect trains divert to the Airport before reaching West Drayton with the result that FGW trains arriving from the west of Hayes arrive full. The Heathrow Connect trains are lightly used between Hayes and Heathrow in normal times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OVERCROWDING – The facts

 

Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group, (EPTUG), regularly receives complaints from passengers who are either unable to board their train or who find the overcrowding on board sufficient to cause anxiety and concerns for their health. Many of these complaints are lodged on the EPTUG message line, (020 8998 0999), and callers do not always leave their name or contact details.

 

Committee members have themselves witnessed overcrowding at various times of day and on various days of the week. Examples include;

            Passengers being unable to get off the train at their chosen station.

            Westbound passengers being left behind at Ealing Broadway at midnight.

            Fights breaking out when passengers from Paddington have been unable to board late night trains.

 

The examples quoted have all occurred on days when operations are stated to be “running normally”.  However,  when, for example, the Piccadilly Line into Heathrow is not operating normally, the Heathrow Connect’s trains (5 coaches) arrive at Hayes and Harlington completely full and few, if any, passengers can board at any of the stations within our remit.

 

The Office of the Rail Regulator in his recent report has again shown that FGW’s commuter services into Paddington remain by far and away the most overcrowded service and that since previous reports the situation has become worst.

 

What the ORR report fails to acknowledge is that large swathes of passengers leave the FGW trains at Ealing Broadway, opting to take the Underground for their onward journey whilst few board there. EPTUG therefore asks why, if FGW’s overcrowding record at Paddington is so bad, how much worst must the overcrowding be between Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing and Ealing Broadway?

 

Yet FGW remain the only London commuter operator not to have any new rolling stock allocated to it since privatisation.

 

Nationally, 7 out of the country’s 10 most overcrowded trains are FGW services.

 

In September 2010, EPTUG carried out its own, non scientific survey. Its findings are shown on the next page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EPTUG Survey

 

 

In September 2010 a survey by EPTUG was carried out. Volunteers handed out approximately 800 cards at three stations, Southall, Hanwell and West Ealing. (Approximately 400 of these were handed out at Southall). The cards were given to passengers boarding trains between 7.15am and 8.30am. Passengers were asked four questions;

 

            How often do you take this train between 7.00am and 9.30am ?

            At which station do you usually board?

            How often do you get a seat?

and       Have you ever been unable to board the train because it is already too full? 

 

Passengers were required to pay for a stamp yet 265 completed cards were returned.

 

Of these, 242 used the service at least two to three times a week. 151 said that they were occasionally unable to board the train whilst a further 56 said they were frequently unable to board the train, an alarming 78% of those replying reported inability to board the train. At Southall the percentage of passengers being unable to board was higher.

 

During the survey it was noticed that the dwell time was considerably extended as intending passengers ran up and down the platform trying to board and whilst the driver attempted to close the doors jammed with people.

 

On one occasion a dwell time of 6 minutes was recorded. This clearly has a knock on effect creating delays at this very busy time of day.

 

On two occasions during the survey drivers left their cabs to try and assist platform staff.

 

One or two platform staff told the EPTUG team that they were often the victims of verbal abuse from passengers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Past and Future Trends

 

The London Borough of Ealing’s Draft Local Implementation Plan reveals many interesting facts.

 

·        There was a 9% population growth in the borough between 1991 and 2008. (By co-incidence the rolling stock currently being used was delivered in 1992 at the start of this period of rapid growth).

·        It is predicted that the population of the borough will rise by 20,000 between 2006 and 2016, which by co-incidence will be the earliest date for Crossrail to commence operations.

·        Para 3.44 reveals that car ownership in the borough at 68.3% is lower than the national average of 72% yet 45% of all trips are made by car possibly reflecting poor public transport in the borough.

·        Only 2% of journeys are made by rail, exactly half the norm for both outer London and London as a whole.

·        The LIP report, 2.10, proposes 14,000 additional homes and 94,500 sq metres of new employment floorspace. The LIP report, 2.10, states that these will be concentrated primarily in the Uxbridge Road/Crossrail corridor, - particularly town centres and key stations. (The Mayor of London has guaranteed 50,000 affordable homes. 4,000 of these are planned for the Gasworks site adjacent to Southall Station).

·        The LIP Report, 3.60, asserts that Ealing has one of the worst figures for annual vehicle delays on the road network at 6.3 million vehicle minutes per km for a 12 hour total (equal with Wandsworth). For this, and because of excessive pollution levels, covered elsewhere in the report,  greater reliance on public transport is sought.

 

Elsewhere it is known that the London Borough of Hillingdon attach great importance to the Stockley Park area, located between Hayes and West Drayton Stations for a major job creation plan. They also plan major rejuvenation of Hayes town centre. A major housing development adjacent to Hayes Station is currently nearing completion.

 

Further West, Slough Trading Estate has plans to create a further 4,500 jobs and Heathrow continues to grow even though the third runway has been cancelled.

 

All this adds pressure to an already overcrowded rail line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Recent Government Policy

 

A Government White Paper published in 2007 called for increased capacity by 2014.

 

It is our understanding that this government policy has not been rescinded.

 

In 2009 the Department for Transport confirmed that 54 new vehicles would be allocated to First Great Western. This, plus FGW’s planned changes to its HST fleet would have gone some way towards meeting government targets.

 

However, following an announcement by the previous government that the Western Mainline was to electrified, the order for additional rolling stock was cancelled.

 

To date, the government has not stated how it intends meeting its own objectives as set out in the 2007 white paper.

 

We find this is quite disturbing and we feel that commuters and other users of FGW’s services are entitled to an explanation.

 

At least four other TOCs are seeking extra rolling stock yet all have received additional trains and carriages since privatisation, unlike FGW.

 

In our opinion, the Inner Thames Valley remains the UK’s most dynamic area of growth, essential for the sound economic future of the UK. Yet it is unlikely to succeed in its objectives if the transport infrastructure continues to fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possible Solutions

 

There are many possible solutions which can be engaged even in these times of spending cuts.

 

Chiltern operates many Turbo trains as well as a similar “Clubman” class. Though one of the smallest TOC it has a variety of rolling stock and is shortly to receive yet another type of train. Perhaps they could increase the new trains order and standardise on that class of train freeing the Turbos for use on FGW services.

 

There are redundant Adelante trains some of which operated on FGW’s services quite recently. If these were returned to FGW for use on the “middle distance” trains, Turbo units could be used on the Inner Thames Valley services.

 

There is a short part of the North Downs Line (about 20 miles) which could be electrified using the third rail system. By drawing on the stock of redundant third rail trains to operate this service 21 vehicles would be freed to supplement the ITV services. There are no major engineering obstacles to electrification, thus the cost of doing so would be small, probably less than the purchase of new diesel units.

 

The possibility of a new entrant to the UK market, eg the Chinese CRSE company or the Spanish builder to supply units might be considered. The Chinese maker has three models, one of which would meet the needs of the ITV services admirably. We understand that finance by a Chinese bank could enable the trains to be leased to FGW at little or no cost to H M Government.

 

Other gains

 

It is perhaps mentioning that even during these difficult times, passenger numbers are continuing to rise across the network and there will be a certain demand for DMUs to be handed down once the FGW ITV lines are electrified.

 

Fuel oil prices are likely to continue to rise and the newer DMUs continue to be more fuel efficient. This factor may encourage a re-think about the service life of units and an earlier replacement programme accepted.

 

Topically we should remember where the world draws its oil. Almost without exception the source of our oil is from a politically unstable part of the world. It is important therefore to replace older thirstier diesel units at an earlier stage of its planned life.

 

At present the Bombardier company at its Derby plant continues to make modern fuel efficient DMUs, but once their  present order book runs its course it will mean an end to train production in the UK. Meanwhile the railways will fail to reach their 2007 White Paper targets set for 2014.  It would seem to EPTUG that extending that order and supplying FGW with new fuel efficient, cleaner air trains, will enable the Government to achieve many aims.