Packed trains safer in crashes, claim rail chiefs
London Evening Standard: 24.01.07
Rail bosses sparked fury today as they told commuters: “Packed trains are safer.”
Safe?: Rail bosses claim packed trains are safer to crash it
The Office of the Rail Regulator, which monitors safety on trains, came under fire for its claim, made after MPs demanded they act to end overcrowding on safety grounds.
It comes amid the growing row over cattle truck conditions on London's commuter trains.
Newbury Tory MP Richard Benyon wrote to Bill Emery, chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation, this month asking him to take whatever action possible against First Great Western for the “appalling service” from West Berkshire to London.
An ORR spokesman said: “Research in the late Nineties... found that where there was a crowded or overcrowded train carriage there was no detrimental effect to people involved in crashes. In a lot of cases people were better off in train carriages where there was overcrowding.”
The spokesman added that the ORR had no say in setting the number of carriages on trains or the level of service.
“Service levels are set by the Department for Transport,” he said. “We are the safety regulator for the industry. However, there is no legal limit on the number of passengers that can travel in any given train. There is no safety law regarding the maximum number of people in a train carriage.”
MPs were stunned by the ORR stance, particularly by seeming to defend overcrowding on the basis that it may protect passengers.
“That's got to be the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard,” said Conservative MP for Didcot Ed Vaizey.
“It's like arguing you should pack a family saloon with 12 people as a road safety measure. People have got to stop passing the buck.”
Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling added: “Given the scale of the problem of overcrowding, it's insensitive and crass to say the least to say people are better off in packed trains.”
Mr Benyon said: “This blame-go-round can't continue.”
The Department for Transport said action was being taken to deal with overcrowding and claimed £88 million was being spent every week for five years to improve the network.
The spokesman added: “We are already increasing capacity on Britain's busiest rail routes, and this will continue. Investment is at record levels and we're also working to make best use of existing capacity.
“Major projects which will deliver more services include the high speed line between London and the South-East which will provide 10,000 extra seats in the peak, and the West Coast Main Line modernisation which has already delivered longer trains into Euston.
“We're seeing more peak services, for example on Chiltern Railways, and South West Trains will deliver longer trains on key commuter lines. This month First Great Western started introducing refurbished high speed trains, which increase capacity by 35,000 seats a day.”
Fools - utter idiots.
- Neil Berrecloth, London
The comment by The Office of the Rail Regulator just reinforces the self evident fact that trains both in terms of the train operators and regulators are run by cretins.
- Guy Penman, Reading
Clearly, there are no resources for providing extra long trains this year, but next year it will no doubt justify a 10% above inflation rise in tickets. I'll put money on that being the justification for increases next year.
- Lisa, London