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07/02/2013
Euston – Milton Keynes/Northampton peak overcrowding


Euston – Milton Keynes/Northampton peak overcrowding

The Department for Transport (DfT) released details in December of the "10 most overcrowded trains”, including three fast evening peak Euston – Northampton services (non-stop to Leighton Buzzard). The release can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/operators-urged-to-tackle-crowding-on-busiest-services

Provision of additional commuter capacity to and from Euston is frequently quoted by the Government as one of the main benefits of the HS2 project. But HS2 will do nothing to relieve this problem until 2026 at the earliest, and conditions on the fast commuter trains from Euston in the evening peak are already intolerable; many passengers have to stand as far as Milton Keynes, a journey of 40 minutes. This is twice the DfT’s national standard, which is that all commuters travelling for longer 20 minutes should have a seat.

However, there is an obvious short term solution. Following the release of data to the High Court during the HS2 Judicial Review hearing in December, we now know that the average load factor (the percentage of seats occupied) for Virgin departures in the evening peak is only c52%. Furthermore the 1610, 1620, 1643, 1710, 1720, 1743, 1810 and 1820 departures from Euston all stop at Milton Keynes to pick up only in the evening peak (during the rest of the day the equivalent services – three Virgin trains an hour - stop to set down as well as pick up). All these trains have spare capacity - the load factor on the 1820 is only 33.9%, and the busiest train is the 1743 at 58.8% (the data given to the court for these trains is attached). These counts were taken before any of the Pendolino trains were lengthened to 11 cars, providing 150 additional standard class seats. The longer trains would give load factors of only 43.8% for the 1743 and 25.2% for the 1820 (probably the least loaded peak departure on any route from London).

If passengers for Milton Keynes (certainly the largest flow on the overcrowded trains), were able to use Virgin services, the current overcrowding experienced by Northampton passengers could be eliminated (or at least greatly reduced) at a stroke. This could be done in now, rather than in 15 years time, and at no cost.

This situation applies nowhere else on the rail network: Great Western InterCity trains all stop at Reading and carry commuters from Paddington to Reading in the evening peak; similarly East Midlands trains carry commuters to Luton Airport Parkway, Luton, and Bedford, and East Coast trains carry commuters to Peterborough.

Essentially, hundreds of passengers to Leighton Buzzard, Milton Keynes and Northampton stand for half an hour or more on crush loaded commuter trains while Virgin trains which already stop at Milton Keynes are less than half full, but passengers aren’t allowed to use them.

 

Chris Stokes

7th February 2013

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