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Railhub Archive
2002-08-13 CON-001


Tight fit?

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Tight fit?

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2001-05-30 Acquisition of Connex South Central Limited by Govia Limited ('Govia') (Govia)

2001-05-29 Connex Transport UK Limited sale of Connex South Central Limited to Govia Limited (Connex)


13 August 2002
source Connex
type Press release

Your chance to comment on our plans to deal with overcrowding.

As you know only too well, Connex, which is the busiest rail network has an overcrowding problem, particularly in South London.

Every day over 120,000 passengers use our services in the morning peak and we predict that by 2010 this figure will be nearer to 140,000. The problem cannot be ignored. We know everyone is unhappy that our trains are overcrowded and we do feel your frustration (even if you think it doesn't affect us). So what can be done about it?

Listening to you

We have already started the consultation process, but this is your opportunity to have your say. So far we have written to nearly 4,000 passengers (mostly those who have had cause to complain to Connex more than once in the last year) and local user groups to invite them to forums to discuss various topics, particularly overcrowding - nearly 300 attended. We also held a series of 6 focus groups to look more closely at some of the design proposals. Although we have met with some of the Rail User Groups, such as the Rail Passengers Committee for Southern England and London Transport Users Committee, we will also be meeting stakeholders at two meetings in August.

To date there has been a mixed reaction, but everyone agreed that something has to be done in the to address overcrowding.

Based on the people we've spoken to there were three main ways we could improve the situation.

Run more trains into London. The most obvious solution, so why can't we do that? Michael Holden, Director of Railtrack Southern Region explains:
It would be great if we could run extra trains into London in the rush hour. The reality is that there is no space on the track for any more trains without causing punctuality to get worse than it is now. Although there are some plans in the pipeline to improve track capacity, such as Thameslink 2000, these are long term solutions, probably not coming into effect until 2007 at the earliest.

Run trains that are longer or double decker.
Michael responds: Long serving commuters may remember double-deckers from the 1950's, but the limited space on our railway within which these trains had to fit meant that they were cramped and unpopular.

We have looked again at longer and double-decker trains recently but concluded that the cost and disruption of the work to improve the infrastructure (ie. principally the length of platforms and height of tunnels and bridges) to accommodate them makes it at least a very long term solution.

Run the right number of trains with the right number of carriages every day.
We know that the single most important thing Connex can do to cope with overcrowding is aim for no cancellations or short trains - all trains running with all carriages all the time and we have struggled with it in the past.The launch of the new 375s and our improved recruitment and retention of drivers means we hardly cancel any trains due to staff shortages now, but we still have far too many trains short-formed. This can be owing to a variety of reasons such as mechanical failure, shortage of stock (which should be alleviated with the introduction of the new trains) and vandalism. But the problem remains that there are too many people even with the correct number of trains and carriages.

We have to be honest and recognise that some of the solutions, such as infrastructure, are out of our control. And even if the Government agreed today to the investment for infrastructure improvements, it would be years before they are completed.

So what can we do?

Well, one of the things that is within our control is the trains themselves. A suggestion which came up a few times at the passenger forums was to take some lessons from the design of the underground trains. This is in fact something we have been looking at, painful though it is to design a carriage that's designed to accommodate standing passengers.

Denis Paillat, Suburban Trains Project Manager, explains what this would mean.

We have to take seriously the possibility that we should design our train strategy for overcrowding and make the best use of the trains we have available now. Our solution is to have fit for purpose trains on all routes - short hauls using carriages designed for standing, and longer hauls where we have fewer passengers with as many seats as possible.

What would this mean for you?

If you live on the Kent and East Sussex Coast (Ramsgate, Margate, Hastings etc)
Our new 375 trains are the most comfortable but only have as many seats as lower density slam door stock (modern safety constraints reduce the available space). These should be used on the longest routes where we cater for fewer passengers who travel for a longer time.

If you live in the Weald (ie Mid Kent - the Medway towns, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells)
A mix of 375s and Networkers (which currently serve the South London area), to provide the maximum number of seats on medium distance journeys. You have heard that the Networkers are uncomfortable and unreliable and it was true. They were not designed for short haul services, which actually causes most of the reliability problems, but they would be more reliable and less crowded on the longer routes. But we know they would have to be refurbished for greater comfort and modified to improve reliability even further.

Even more encouraging, this train strategy could allow for faster services through the Weald (by providing services with fewer stops) as a result of the introduction of suburban trains below.

If you live in South London (ie, Dartford into London)
This is where we are looking at London Underground style trains - designing a suburban or South London shuttle train, to carry the maximum number of passengers for short journeys, with humane standing room but fewer seats.
It has already been suggested in the press that such cattle-trucks will realise the horrors of limited standing room, no seats and no toilets. Yet the tube is designed, by having fewer seats and no toilets but plenty of rails and straps to hold on to, to cater for the maximum number of people.

This plan, to ensure maximum comfort for the maximum number of people needs 500 million investment from Connex.

The good news is they have more seats than the old slam door stock and even more than the new 375s. This was the highest priority for passengers we've spoken to in the Weald area. We have 40m to invest to help make them reliable.

The money to refurbish them is still in question -- we need to convince the SRA that it would be a good investment. We're pretty certain we can secure this money, so we spoke to passengers in focus groups to find out their priorities.

Seat layout - focus groups showed a mixture of those who want to have airline seating for privacy and those who want face to face seating for more sociability
Seat style - focus groups suggest that for the longer jouneys you would prefer the seats to be softer
Security enhancements - CCTV was given a high priority by focus groups
Improved luggage racks
Improved toilet facilities - making sure they are clean and useable
Better standing room - particularly near the doors so that people move further into the trains, and if possible wider aisles
Well positioned grab handles/rails so that people feel secure if they have to stand (as the train nears London)

Suburban trains:

We have already decided that they should have fewer seats but how? Some passengers felt that as the trains were so packed, you couldn't use the toilet anyway. Certainly, as another passenger pointed out - you don't have a toilet in your car.

This is where it is most important to design for overcrowding and we need your help. These trains need to carry the maximum number of people on short journeys, rather like a tube train.Seats will need to be available for those joining the train from the furthest stop (ie Dartford, 40 mins away) but as now, passengers will inevitably have to stand as the train draws closer to London. Features that passenger focus groups felt we needed to include are:

Robust and easily reachable straps and grab rails, like tube trains, for improved safety for those standing.
Improved security - CCTV was a high priority for those in the focus groups
As much unobstructed space under seats as possible for baggage storage - particularly if you need to stand
Space around doors to encourage people to move down and to allow easy access, avoiding delays at stations
Plenty of ventilation - if you have to stand, it's not quite so bad if the windows at least open
Seating layout - suggestions included bum rests and tip up seats near the door, with two by two seating further in


Designing a cattle-truck? Possibly. But the painful reality is that peak-time passengers on South London journeys usually have to stand, and may well feel like cattle. We can't find a way to make that not true. We can, with your help, find a way to make it more bearable.

How can you make your views known?
The details of carriage redesign are a set of decisions we simply haven't made yet. Your comments are very welcome and will be very influential. What about the bigger decisions? Frankly, we have pretty much decided on developing a "Suburban" carriage with fewer seats and using the Networkers for the Weald. It's not ideal, but we think it's a reasonable way to cope with inevitable overcrowding.

You can let us know what you think of the suggestions by writing to us at:

Designing for Overcrowding
Connex South Eastern
Freepost LON15723
London SE1 8YX

Or email us on

Railhub Archive ::: 2002-08-13 CON-001


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