Rail service tasked with improving commuter journeys

Up to one in five rush-hour trains arrives in the capital jam-packed, often with more passengers than it was designed to carry — and one in 10 of all trains is late, a new report reveals
Packed commuter trains
© Glenn Copus
New report: one in five London rush-hour trains is packed
Up to one in five rush-hour trains arrives in the capital jam-packed, often with more passengers than it was designed to carry — and one in 10 of all trains is late, a new report reveals.

Tens of thousands of Londoners leave the capital each year in search of larger, more affordable homes within commuting distance — but many complain their journeys back to the city for work are frequently slow and uncomfortable.

The figures are published today by the Office of Rail Regulation. The watchdog is threatening to fine Network Rail, in charge of running the UK’s rail network, millions of pounds if it fails to improve London services. It found 10 per cent of trains reach the capital at least five minutes late, and one in 50 are very late or cancelled.

The most overcrowded station is Paddington — almost 60 per cent of trains arriving during the morning rush hour are over capacity. Conditions are also cramped at Moorgate, with almost 43 per cent of trains considered overcrowded, with Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street, and Waterloo services little better.

The only station with relatively few crowded trains is Euston, where only around three per cent of trains are overcrowded.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passengers’ pressure group Passenger Focus, said poor punctuality was the number one complaint amongst commuters. “It is essential that Network Rail gets a grip of the situation and delivers sustainable improvements, so that passengers can get back to depending on the railway to deliver them on time,” he said.

A spokesman for Network Rail pointed out that punctuality was slowly improving — and blamed lack of progress on increasing passenger numbers. It plans to tackle the problems with improvements including extra commuter services between the Thames Valley and Paddington.

“Our main challenge is dealing with unprecedented growth in passengers numbers, which is currently double that predicted when current performance targets were set in 2009,” he said. “We are dealing with the problems of a busy, growing railway and we have to balance capacity, efficiency and performance.”

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