UK government urges rail companies to address overcrowding

The UK government is urging rail companies to efficiently address the issue of overcrowding during peak hours.

Norman Baker, the UK rail minister, is writing to the major train operating companies asking them to be more transparent about overcrowded trains and to encourage passengers to travel at less busy times, The Guardian reports.

The move comes after the government faced criticism earlier this month when it announced that rail fares in England would increase by an average of 4.1 percent in January next year.

According to data from the Department for Transport, passengers on some morning and evening peak services were travelling on trains that are carrying 60 percent more people than they were designed for. Consumer groups have also voiced concerns that commuters were being pushed to the limit by an unacceptable combination of overcrowded trains and rising ticket prices.

Citing the case of London Midland, Baker is now urging train companies to highlight crowded trains on their timetables, enabling passengers to choose alternative services during peak hours. London Midland, which runs trains between London and Birmingham and the north-west, appropriately colour-codes trains using a red, amber and green ‘traffic light’ system.

‘Publication of train-by-train crowding information is, in the short term, an important tool for allowing passengers to make informed choices about which trains to travel on, and convincing those passengers who can change their travel patterns to do so,’ Baker said, adding: ‘The innovative approach taken by London Midland is helping to smooth the peaks in demand for their services and is making the most of the investment going into rail services in their area. I am keen to see the rail industry working together to follow London Midland’s example.’

Baker also said that the government has ruled out fare increases at peak times. ‘We have ruled out making further increases to fares at the very busiest times and we are investing record amounts in improvements to the network, but where it is simply not possible to increase services, encouraging passengers to change their travel patterns is the best way to tackle a crowded network,’ Baker remarked.