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.