Crush reduces slightly on Manchester trains following investment


Manchester_Class_319_EMUThe introduction of four-car Class 319 EMUs has increased capacity between Liverpool and Manchester


The commuter crush on trains into and out of Manchester appears to be easing off as the North West Electrification scheme begins to make its mark.

The Department for Transport’s latest bulletin on rail passenger numbers and crowding in major cities in England and Wales also shows a marked decline in crowding on London Paddington services. The statistics, based on passenger counts conducted last autumn, reveal that trains arriving at London Blackfriars via Elephant & Castle experienced the highest morning peak crowding. Across the 11 cities, morning peak crowding increased by 0.4% since the 2014 counts.

Trains into Manchester in the morning peak had 3.7% Passengers in Excess of Capacity (PiXC), second only to London. However, this was 0.6% lower than in 2014. Manchester’s evening peak PIXC was 2.1%, a reduction of 0.3%.

Taking both peaks together, PiXC was significantly worse in Manchester than any other city outside London, at 2.9% compared with the average of 1.7%. Other cities are closing the gap, however, with Leicester’s PiXC increasing to 2.5%.

Following electrification between Manchester and Liverpool via Newton-le-Willows, Northern Rail had introduced four-car Class 319 EMUs on Manchester diagrams by the time the autumn counts were conducted. The 07.17 from Liverpool Lime Street was one of Britain’s most crowded trains when it was operated by a two-car DMU. It became a Class 319 working in March 2015. Further EMU deployment will be possible as Network Rail completes further electrification.

In London, morning peak PiXC averaged 5.8%, which was 0.4% higher than in 2014. Passengers are counted when their train arrives at its first station in Zone 1. The largest increase, 4.1%, was on trains arriving at Blackfriars from the Elephant and Castle direction, where PiXC was 14.7%. Many services entering Zone 1 at Blackfriars had been diverted, as of December 2014, to avoid reconstruction works at London Bridge, where PiXC reduced by 0.3% in the autumn 2015 count.

Paddington’s morning peak PiXC was 8.9%, a reduction of 4.5% since 2014. A GWR spokesman said: “Over the last 18 months or so we’ve reduced the amount of First Class on our services and increased the amount of Standard Class capacity.” First Class was removed from many of the Thames Valley DMUs on 20 September. Reclassification of High Speed Train vehicles was completed in that month.

Waterloo saw only a small increase, 0.1%, in morning peak PiXC. By the autumn, South West Trains had introduced most of its additional 108 vehicles to strengthen formations.

The DfT’s bulletin also reveals that on a typical autumn weekday in 2015, 1.05 million passengers arrived in central London, a 1.7% increase over the year, and that 45% of them arrived outside the morning peak. The growth of 3.2% in morning peak arrivals was significantly greater than the all-day growth.

Commenting on the overall picture, a Rail Delivery Group spokesman 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.”

Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Rail passengers are paying record amounts for their tickets and it’s not acceptable that so many regularly have to stand. They have every right to be outraged at the levels of overcrowding.

“In the next few years, revenue from tickets will exceed the cost of running the railways. The millions who rely on the trains want a commitment from the government that there will be long term investment in capacity. This mustn’t just mean big ticket projects like HS2 and Crossrail 2 but better services.

“We also need to reduce the pressure on rush hour services. The government must honour its promise to introduce season ticket discounts for part time workers to help tackle overcrowding, and make rail travel more affordable.”

Janet Cooke, chief executive of London TravelWatch said: “The picture these figures paint will come as no surprise to long suffering commuters, the majority of whom have no real alternative.On top of this come frequent delays and cancellations faced by many with no immediate signs of improvement.”


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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