Data released recently by the center-left Labour Party showed that train overcrowding is at peak level for the past few years, showing that even main routes are projected to be running at 208% capacity in 2022.
An analysis of publicly available government statistics showed that many overcrowded services ran at 187% of capacity in 2017– that is an increase of 25% compared to 2011 data. Separate statistics provided by the Office of Rail and Road showed that 2018 had the highest number of delayed or canceled train trips.
These statistics and figures add to the tremendous challenge faced by Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, who has recently seen commuters protest in what was deemed a “day of anger”. The protest erupted at around two dozen railway stations after train fares rose by an above-inflation average of 3.1% on Wednesday morning.
The shadow transport secretary criticized the current right-wing Tories administration for allowing fares to rise three times faster than average wages while services continue to show signs of failure. “It’s outrageous that passengers will be hit with yet another above-inflation fares rise following such a miserable year on the railway. Making passengers pay more to travel on increasingly overcrowded trains is simply not sustainable.” McDonald said.
The Labour Party compiled statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) and publicized that between 2011 and 2016, overcrowding increased at around 4.04% annually on the ten busiest parts of the line. Assuming a constant rate of increase, the party predicted that the ten busiest parts of the line would run at an average of 207.9% by 2022.
The government released figures in July, showing that in 2018, the most congested service was the 4.22am TransPennine Express from Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport, having a peak capacity of 211% at its busiest. The DfT, however, claimed that overcrowding has likely reduced on that service since May after a route modification in which trains no longer stopped at Wigan station, where it would usually be busiest up to Manchester.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke during one of these “day of anger” protests, stating that the fare rises are a disgrace which drives people away from using public transport. He responded to Grayling’s claim that the fare increase was a necessity to maintain the rail network’s upkeep. Corbyn insisted that Britain must consider investing in railways as a form of public investment. A DfT spokesperson issued this statement: “We are investing £48bn into modernising our rail network, to relieve overcrowding and deliver significant improvements in performance, punctuality, and capacity.” When asked for comment, a spokesman of the Rail Delivery Group stated that money collected from the fares is essential to strengthen over £13 billion of private-sector investment in 7,000 refurbished and new rail carriages having more seats, better air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and improved accessibility for millions of commuters.