Why train overcrowding is as bad as ever

January, 2009, and nothing much has changed over the years

January, 2009, and nothing much has changed over the years

First published in Reports

WHENEVER a train pulls into a busy station, there is always a sense of anticipation among the passengers as they jostle for the optimum position for boarding.

That anticipation turned to panic as the passengers realised they would not be getting on the 07.59 to Manchester Victoria if they were not quick enough.

There has been a train failure at Blackburn, so there is only one carriage instead of the usual three, and it’s rammed.

As people rush to stand at the point where the doors will stop, a blind woman is left at the back of the queue.

There is a slight delay as a cyclist struggles to pull his bike off the crowded carriage, and then the mad rush to climb aboard begins.

The blind woman does not make it, and several other passengers decide they would rather be late for work than be crushed.

Once on board, the train is packed tighter than a battery farm. Every possible piece of standing room is taken, and it is impossible to move from the space at the end of the carriage.

Some passengers have even crowded into the toilet to find a bit of extra space.

“This is great,” says one man who asked not to be named. “Talk about sardines in a tin.”

When the doors open at Farnworth, dismayed commuters on the platform are greeted by shouts of “no chance” from the train’s passengers, and no-one else manages to get on.

At Kearsley there is confusion as passengers who are crammed into the passage at the end of the train have to get off to allow other passengers out.

A woman has to shout to the guard to stop the train leaving as people fight their way off the train, while other passengers anxiously wait to get back on.

“I thought I was going to get pulled off then,” comments one man. “It’s survival of the fittest.”

Catherine Mitchell, aged 50, said she felt like she was in a herd of cattle.

She said: “It’s not human, is it? It’s got a lot worse since they changed the timetables - I just don’t think they’ve planned it very well.

“They’ve either not got enough drivers or they’ve not got enough trains. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not working.”

The train finally arrives in Manchester Victoria at 8.42am, 17 minutes late.

Deborah Pilling, aged 50, a business analyst from Belmont, said she checked Northern Rail’s website every morning because her train was cancelled so often.

She said: “Fortunately I’m on flexitime, but it does mean I have to make the time back at the end of the day if I’m late, and then I also have to arrange childcare.

“I really wish I hadn’t renewed my annual ticket. They’re trying to promote public transport, but I really wish I’d got in my car, because I’m at the end of my tether with it.”

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