Brockley Station: Officially overcrowded

Brockley Nick stole our thunder on this one, but here's the more detailed post which we wrote yesterday and had scheduled for publication this morning ...



Thanks to a tip-off from Hither Green blogger Bagelmouse, BC has been having a read of the London Assembly transport committee's latest transport report. And it brings glad tidings, in the form of official recognition that Brockley's trains - along with those in neighbouring localities such as Forest Hill and Blackheath - are full to bursting.

"Overcrowding is most severe at a number of ‘pinch points’ on the rail network in London, where the busiest routes service extremely busy stations," the report's authors write.
"We have mapped the most severely overcrowded train routes in London, and found that the worst crowding on these routes occurs at East Croydon, Surbiton, Tottenham Hale, Forest Hill, Bromley South, Balham, Clapham Junction, Finsbury Park, Sydenham, Streatham Hill and Ealing Broadway stations. Our data analysis and call for evidence has identified that pinch points also exist at Highbury, Islington, Earlsfield, Putney, Brockley, Blackheath and Wandsworth Town."

The Brockley line is one of the 20 most over-crowded journeys in London in the morning rush hour, according to the report. The station saw over 800,000 entries & exits (a measure of useage) in 2007, and we don't think anyone would argue that use has decreased since then.

The 2007 figures have been used to calculate the avarage level of over-crowding on trains belonging to different operating companies (the PIXC figure, which is stated as a percentage of the train's capacity). Southern and South-Eastern, which serve Brockley Station, have average PIXC of around 3%.
But the Assembly wanted to highlight the massive variations which that average masks. So they looked at data on rush hour trains alone, and found that Southern's PIXC for these periods is 30%, and South-Eastern's is 28%. In other words, rush hour trains are carrying some 30 per cent more people than they can officially carry.
"A PIXC score of 40% (which is normal for London’s busiest trains) equates to around five passengers per square metre of available standing space. This measure more accurately reflects the experience of commuters", the report says.

Evidence presented to the Assembly includes quotes from local people such as: "The overcrowding on the Forest Hill-London Bridge line has resulted in me being unable to face the daily torture of commuting any longer."

And that's just the start of the commuting woes heard by the Assembly: "If they are able to board a train, London rail commuters often find their journeys extremely uncomfortable and perhaps even dangerous. Passengers reported that they regularly saw people fainting on crowded trains, especially during the summer, with one passenger saying she had fainted twice herself. Others reported being hurt by closing train doors because trains were too crowded, and seeing people fall into the gap between the train and the platform. Also mentioned was the phenomenon of ‘train rage’, when arguments break out between passengers over space on board. The Office of Rail Regulation, the national safety regulator, expressed concerns to the Committee about how crowding could present a risk to passenger safety."

The Report cites additional evidence from other research into London train travel: "Survey research by Transport for London, the Department for Transport and Network Rail showed that 66% of London rail passengers caught trains earlier and later than their preferred time of travel: when asked to explain why, ‘to avoid overcrowding’ was the second most frequent reason given by passengers. Other passengers told the Committee that overcrowding had caused them to leave their jobs or think about doing so, including those who said they would leave London."

The Assembly has responded by including Brockley on its list of places where "effort needs to be focussed" and expressed strong support for Phase 2 of the East London Line, among other projects.

It has also issued some recommendations for train companies and the Department for Transport, including:
- "It is imperative that if train operating companies are modifying timetables to cut expenditure, they do not exacerbate existing overcrowding."
- "Trains in London need to be appropriate for use on busy
commuter services. Operators should review the balance of seats and standing space on their trains, and the provision of first class accommodation. It is also evident that more handholds are needed on London trains to allow passengers to stand safely."
- "The Department for Transport should develop plans to lengthen all platforms at London Bridge to 12 cars long and implement these alongside current work."

However, even the East London Line isn't likely to be sufficient - Transport for London modelling data quoted in the report suggests that by 2026, the Brockley line will still be officially over-crowded.

52 comments:

Tressillian James said...

So which one do we comment on Kate?

Comment posted on Nick's same post...Does this mean that a)Brockley used to have more trains which have subsequently been cut leading to overcrowding or b) that Brockley is attracting an ever growing commuter class that have jobs in central London. I think it's the latter but won't use the dreaded 'g' word. Rhymes with sentrification.

Brockley Nick said...

Comment on Kate's hers is better - she did proper research and everything. I am just a shameless glory hog, ignore me.

BrockleyBiker said...

Designing out first class accomadation would be good thing. It is ridiculous we still have it in this day and age. It is an inefficient use of space.

Anonymous said...

So we've got Kate's, or Nick's (which in itself seems to be duplicated 3 times?)

Tressilliana said...

There are a few obvious things that could be done.

- Make sure that all trains in the rush hour are the maximum length.

- Get rid of first class. As BB says, it's nonsensical having any first class accommodation on short-haul commuter trains.

- Schedule more stopping trains.

Longer term, re-open the high level station so that people can use trains to get to places in Zones 2 and 3 without going into the centre.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see this sort of thing measured and some sort of confirmation that its not all in our heads or that everyone else gets the same treatment.

They should just have a 1 pager titled "go from Ladywell" though.

JPM said...

I agree with Tressilliana and BB... but I would go one small stage further...

Get rid of 70% of the seats on trains, those remaining to be used by the infirm and pregnant, fine all people reading a newspaper (increased fine for a broadsheet), electrify the floor of the train and give those who refuse to move down a nasty shock, take out the driver's of delayed and cancelled trains and execute them, take out the heads of the train companies and execute them too. That might do it.

Brockley Kate said...

Please post on this one - Nick is aware of the duplication of his post and I think he's sorting it.

On-topic: I definitely agree that the removal of 1st class sections is vital. Another interesting but potentially more controversial idea in the report, which I think I alluded to in my post, is the removal of seating to create more standing room. Seems like a good idea in a practical sense, but it could lead to quite different train design and travel 'experience'.

BrockleyBiker said...

"Seems like a good idea in a practical sense, but it could lead to quite different train design and travel 'experience'.

Tube style seating arrangements make far more sense on commuter routes. Makes it easier for people to get on and off and increases capacity.

Anonymous said...

Kate, is it me or have you become slightly obsessed with general health and safety lately?

Brockley Kate said...

Where's the health & safety angle here? A bit tenuous, no?

It would be more accurate to say I've become obsessed with the appalling state of the train service from Brockley Station - but then, that's not a new thing, I've been moaning about that since I started posting on here.

Anonymous said...

I think Southern is to blame here. I can't pinpoint it, but there's something about that company, which gives me the creeps. I know it sounds weird, I really don't like them.

I just hope that when LU take over the station things improve.

Tressillian James said...

I think making more trains stop at Brockley would be the easiest measure to take. But what do I know? I only see the sailing past half full in the morning.

Would like to hear Southern trains comment on it sometime though...

Anonymous said...

Well I was referring to the emboldened sentence: "The Office of Rail Regulation, the national safety regulator, expressed concerns to the Committee about how crowding could present a risk to passenger safety."

Brockley Nick said...

I've said this before but getting more trains to stop at the station is not a simple soulution - it would have ramifications for the whole timetable and cause problems at London Bridge, which has to process a huge number of trains. Also, adding carriages is not possible as some platforms can't cope with more than 8.

However, they could still deliver a significant increase in capacity by scrapping the old-style carriages, which have very little standing room and only use the modern carriages, which can hold many more passengers. Roll on the ELL.

Brockley Nick said...

TJ, in answer to your question, passenger numbers have grown massively over the last 10 years due to rising population and employment. As a result of recession, there will be fewer commuters (I think it is already a bit less crowded on Brockley trains) but the GLA is arguing that this should not be seen as a justification to cut services, because trains are already unreasonably overcrowded. What this report hopefully does is mean that, if cuts are made, they do not fall on our service.

Hugh said...

I can understand people living further out getting the train to work every day. Have Brox dwellers considered their carbon footprint and its effect on organic mung bean production? Get a bike or some running running shoes ffs.

Tressilliana said...

I don't often travel from Brockley (thank God) but at Crofton Park some trains have 8 carriages and some have 6. If this happens at Brockley making them all 8-carriage trains would surely help?

Anon, I don't think it's asking too much to have trains where people don't faint from overcrowding or risk injury from doors closing while people are still trying to get on. Expecting that pitifully low minimum doesn't to me suggest a fixation with health & safety.

Wild Bill said...

Has anyone been on the South West communter trains? (from Waterloo out to Kingston, New Malden, Wimbledon etc.) They are SO much better designed than the ones we get. really spacious, wide doorways, loads of handles to grab onto. They need to get some of those over here.

I can't help but think that those areas get better trains as they are more affluent, but maybe i'm just being paranoid.

Brockley Nick said...

Charlton trains are more modern. I think your theory is flawed! ;)

BrockleyBiker said...

The new SW trains are a really good design for a commuter service.

However they are not perfect. They still waste space on 1st class.

Brockley Kate said...

Wild Bill, I can understand your paranoia - I make the westward trek occasionally, and the trains are indeed much better suited to commuter routes.

Anonymous said...

The Waterloo and city line is a service dedicated to those SW commuters that work in the City, to cut their journey times. Such is their economic and social clout. They are life's winners.

Monkeyboy said...

'Tis a nightmare. As someone else stated you have to look at it as a 'System' so the trains, platforms, access/entry points, staffing, ticketing facilities, have to work together to cope with numbers. Costs a few quid.

I'm still not clear who will 'own' the staion. The track will be NR, the Overland will be Tfl but will the station still be under NR's remit? These things matter when it comes to finding money.

Annoying eh?

BrockleyBiker said...

"The Waterloo and city line is a service dedicated to those SW commuters that work in the City, to cut their journey times. Such is their economic and social clout. They are life's winners"

I think that is a bit of tin foil hat theory tbh. SW Trains is a larger company and has chosen better trains. Southern have got just as new a trains, they just didn't pick the best ones.

Anonymous said...

The "better trains on the SW line" is perhaps tin foil theory. As for the Waterloo-City line and it's reason to be, go check your transport history.

lll said...

Do people think Southern is doing a good job? Yes or no and give reasons.

No for me, because of the functionality of their automated ticket machines.

The crash of their website when it was most needed- during the snow.

The late announcement of platforms for departure at London Bridge.

Their unimaginative and inflexible attitude to problems- their approach to Oystercards

I could go on, but what are your views?

Brockley Kate said...

Hum. Well. I would love to rip into Southern (and South-Eastern) but when I consider the things that piss me off, I have to admit that some of them may be the fault of Network Rail, or whoever runs London Bridge station, or TfL, etc etc.

So I'll list the things that piss me off, and someone knowledgeable like Monkeyboy can tell me whose fault they are.

1) Extreme under-capacity on the Brockley line, particularly in the evenings from London Bridge/Charing Cross. This is mainly due to the infrequency of evening trains, though on some occasions it's also down to the use of 6- or even just 4-carriage trains.

2) The endless wait for a platform outside London Bridge, which nearly doubles the journey time sometimes. And the late platform announcements at London Bridge concourse. And occasional under-staffing and resultant delay or cancellation of trains from London Bridge in the evening rush hour.

3) The cost. And scammy ticket machines. And the whole rail pricing system in general, but don't let's get started on that, I'll be here all night.

4) The fact that the Victoria-Brockley interchange isn't under consideration to be re-opened, despite the potential it offers.

5) Total and utter inability to cope with even the slightest bit of Weather.

That'll do me for now, though I could probably add others later on ...

The Cat Man said...

My understanding is that if you board a train 'knowing' it is over-crowded then it is easier, legally speaking, for the train company to state that any death or injury to you as a result of an accident is your fault not theres.

Apparently there are obliged to show maximum capacity somewhere accessible on the trains (similar to buses) and are obliged to offer a form of travel insurance in addition to the ticket cost (something like £1 against a £5 journey).

In reality, the station operators do not know about this (the companys have an incentive to not promote the issue) and commuters do not know their legal rights as well as they should be.

Can anyone check this out?

Anonymous said...

Southern's ticket machines never have queues by them - because they don't work.

Has anyone ever successfully renewed a monthly railcard using one? The staff don't have a clue.

Crofton Park Ranger said...

A few extra trains (more than 2/hour)from Crofton Park might tempt a few Brockley/H.O.P. commuters... Especially as, from March, trains will go to Kings Cross , and eventually Farringdon + City Thameslink once station improvements are complete...

853blog said...

When the East London Railway kicks in Brockley will be transferred to LOROL, the contractor which runs London Overground on behalf of TfL. Network Rail will still own the freehold.

London Underground's only involvement with that route is that it'll still own the tracks on the core New X/New X Gate-Whitechapel bit, and the extension up to Dalston - in the same way that Network Rail owns the rest of the track, but stations and trains are operated by someone else. (That's why the RMT claimed it was being "privatised".)

Anonymous said...

"A few extra trains (more than 2/hour)from Crofton Park might tempt a few Brockley/H.O.P. commuters... "

Noooooooooo Brockley commuters... stay away.... we dont need the same overcrowding!!!

Anonymous said...

What are running running shoes Hugh?

Nina said...

They don't need to hack the seats out of carriages (but maybe that's the bias of a woman who's 19 weeks pregnant and doesn't want to command people out of their seats). They do need some new rolling stock. Most of the trains that go through Brockley are poorly designed and have 4 carriages and that's why they're wildly over-crowded at rush hour. They don't have first class accomodation unless they travel from Charing Cross which doesn't happen in rush hour anyway. It sucks because the bad train service and crowding is generally a result of poor decision making.

Brockley Kate said...

I've been on trains from London Bridge in the evening rush hour which have 1st class on them.

angelofthewest said...

@ Nina - command away! I can guarantee you that every single person sitting on the train has benefited, in utero, from kindness and consideration shown to his/her mother. Do what your comfortable with obviously, but I get *so* frustrated when I see pregnant women inconvenienced by lazy b*stards who just sit there... But I guess at 19 weeks - congratulations! - you have time to work out what's right for you!


@Kate and others - I agree with pretty much everything re: dreadfulness of the service and the various companies. But, I wanted to point out that at least at brockley we have really nice station staff. How rare is that?! They may not know everything, they certainly can't fix everything (esp. ticket machines) but they always know the cheapest way to heathrow, and more often than not, manage a smile! In my experience of rail network staff, this is a minor miracle!

patrick1971 said...

Not that long ago (3 or 4 years?) Southern or its predecessor, along with South Eastern, held an extensive consultation exercise in which they wanted to (a) remove first class accommodation and (b) make all seating transverse to allow for more capacity and more comfortable standing. But the passengers who participated in the consultation made it very clear that this was not wanted. The current "new" train design you see on South Eastern is a compromise as a result of this consultation exercise.

So, much as it pains me to defend them, I think the train companies' hearts are in the right places on this one.

Anonymous said...

The "first class" doesn't get observed does it? When I've been on them people just treat them as any other carriage.

BrockleyBiker said...

"The "first class" doesn't get observed does it? When I've been on them people just treat them as any other carriage"

On peak 1st class distinction can be ignored. Wehter that is official or not I don't know, I only have experiance of London companies so not sure what the situation elsewhere is.

It's off peak that the TI's get arsey on the issue from my experiance.

drakefell debaser said...

What are running running shoes Hugh?

They are available from any good sports sports shop.

Headhunter said...

I think you can get away with using 1st class at peak times even if you don't have a 1st class ticket because quite simply the trains are so packed tight that ticket inspectors can't physically make their way through trains to check tickets!

I'd like a better service in the evenings from Ch X or London Br. Platform 5 at London Br seems perpetually crammed full of people trying to get on trains to Brockley and beyond all evening, whereas other platforms much less so.

As for travelling to and from Ladywell, it's not convenient if you live in the top north west corner of Brockley, in Manor Ave or UBR for example. It's at least a 20+ minute walk to Ladywell and that would be at a fast pace. Admittedly St Johns is a little closer, but trains barely seem to stop there.

fabhat said...

HH - trains to St J are infrequent, but very handy, esp for coming back from C Cross when to get to Brockley you'd need to change at London Bridge.

Anonymous said...

I'm 7 months pregnant and commute from Brockley everyday and not yet been offered a seat. Can't even usually get near enough to the seats to ask someone to move... Trying to avoid people's bags/elbows/etc from bashing into me and trying not to fall over are my main priorities - so I think a redesign of the trains is much needed - if the majority of people have to stand then the least they can do is provide a handrail for people to hold on to.

I also agree that the late announcement of platforms at LB is a real nuisance - particularly as I can no longer run for the platform as I used to!

The use of 4 carriage trains on rush hour services (e.g the 7.05 from LB last night) is complete madness and I can't see the justification when we know the platforms will cope with 8 carriages.

One plus point - the people on the trains to/from Brockley don't push or shove as much as people trying to get on the tube

JP said...

You should do what my wife used to do and open your coat and shove your stomach out. Usually works a treat. I've fed up with offering my seat to women who are just overweight. Not because they accept, but becasue they give me a frosty look.

Anonymous said...

yes JP I expect with a coat on I do suffer a bit from the is she just fat question and can appreciate people (esp men)not wanting to take the risk of asking!

Monkeyboy said...

Top tip....

If you have a phone that can web surf then add this and 'bookmark' it. I look at it when I get to London Bridge and saunter to the platform as cool as the proverbial cucumber.

www.livedepartureboards.co.uk/ldb/sumdep.aspx?T=BCY&S=LBG

Ask a friendly geek to help if required.

patrick1971 said...

"The use of 4 carriage trains on rush hour services (e.g the 7.05 from LB last night) is complete madness and I can't see the justification when we know the platforms will cope with 8 carriages."

The reason trains run short is usually either vandalism or mechanical failure. The eight carriage trains are actually made up of 2 4-car (or 4 2-car?) units which can operate independently of each other. Train companies have policies of not sending out graffitied trains, so the "artists" don't get the satisfaction of seeing their work displayed. But they also get fined if services don't run. So it's easier, if a train's been graffitied, to split another one in two so you can maintain the service whilst you clean the graffitied train. Ditto for mechanical failure.

lll said...

The point is most people are reasonable and would probably accept that IF they were told. The train companies communication is very poor.

Also the late evening trains are always 4 carriages and it is awful when you are packed in like the cliched sardine and the train rolls into New Cross Gate and there's a cyclist...

Anonymous said...

The iPhone application, "Trains", does the same thing. No more going to the board to work out which train out of platforms 4, 5, 8, 12 or 14 is stopping in Brockley.

It actually knows about the platforms AND delays sooner than the live boards in the station. Crazy.

Brockley Nick said...

Does it work well? That sounds brilliant.

patrick1971 said...

Fair point, Ill. I only know these things because I'm a bit of a transport geek and hang out on uk.transport.london and such groups. Re the four carriage trains in the evenings, cleaning & maintenance are also probably having an effect at this time when demand is, theoretically, lower.

"it is awful when you are packed in like the cliched sardine and the train rolls into New Cross Gate and there's a cyclist..."

Hahaha, I know what you mean! Without wishing to start a huge row (is this even possible when discussing cycling?), I do wonder why people carry bikes on busy, crowded short-haul commuter routes. I can understand if you're going out to the country to ride, but if you're in the inner suburban area and you want to cycle, cycle! Don't catch the train! Is it really worth the aggro just so you can cycle the pretty short distance from the station to your work/home?

Sorry if this sounds aggressive; I don't mean it to - it's a genuine enquiry. Is the pleasure gained from 10 mins cycling at either end of your journey really worth all the hassle of lugging your bike up and down stairs and pushing it on to crowded trains? (NB Folding bikes excepted, natch.)

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