Danger on the rail tracks: urgent need to fix overcrowding

CROYDON COMMENTARY: A Tory MP has demanded that Southern should lose its franchise for operating services from Coulsdon, Purley and Croydon into London. But for regular commenter ROD DAVIES, the acute overcrowding of trains between East Croydon and London Bridge and Victoria is becoming dangerous

When was the last time you readily nabbed a seat for your morning journey into London Bridge?

When was the last time you readily nabbed a seat for your morning journey into London Bridge?

It is virtually an annual event that I, as a commuter, at 07.30 in the morning get a seat on the train to London Bridge. It is equally galling to get off the train at the end of the day together with large numbers of other people and then watch what appears to be a half-empty train leave on the onward journey to some station to the south.

As it is planned that tens of thousands of new residents will move into central Croydon, the demand for trains will only increase on this section of track.

Not only is the overcrowding uncomfortable, it is in my opinion verging on the dangerous.

The carriages are not designed for large numbers of standing passengers. All too frequently as speeding trains pass over uneven stretches of track, passengers struggle to find something to hang on to. Too often, seated passengers leave large cases and folded bicycles in the areas where passengers must stand, especially by the doors.

While I do recognise that trains serving Gatwick will always have passengers with large cases, the lack of provision for them is a serious omission. The folding bikes left by the doors pose a further hazard. Any heavy lump of metal parts left unsecured on a moving vehicle poses a risk if the vehicle brakes suddenly. But to place machined metal objects, with hard and sharp edges, where people have to stand is a further risk, notwithstanding that these bicycles are also greasy and dirty.

My own view is that many of the trains serving south of Purley could terminate in Croydon with people changing on to either London Bridge or Victoria commuter trains that are designed to handle high volumes of people. It might inconvenience those passengers having to change, but a Mass Transit solution would be more fitting for areas within the M25.

Perhaps a high-speed service to Gatwick from London Bridge, with capacity for luggage, would ease some of the problems? Perhaps the reintroduction of guards vans or their equivalent, so that bicycles (folding and others) and larger items of baggage could be transported without taking up standing room or endangering passengers could be trialled?

The commuter rail service from Croydon into London seems to be not fit for purpose at the moment. And it is certainly not fit for the future.


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7 Responses to Danger on the rail tracks: urgent need to fix overcrowding

  1. Nick Davies says:

    The new Class 700 trains which will be showing up over the next few months may be the answer to your prayers.

    • Michael Hall says:

      Just started commuting on the Thameslink after a job change, and I still haven’t found a strategy that will get me a seat.

      How long should I be holding my breath for until these trains start running? How long will it be until we get a short-formed new train? And how long will it be until someone takes a photo of the space indicator showing the entire train is full up?

  2. At least you can stand inside the train. In about 20 years, if you are unfortunate enough to be still commuting to Croydon, you will be crouching on the train roof. This is what happens when you rely on short-term profit making for a few rather than long term planning for the benefit of the rest of us.

    I’ve just had a glance at the 1951 ABC railway timetable guide. Despite the tremendous overcrowding nowadays there are far fewer trains from Croydon to London today than there were then. The average commute time to London Bridge in 1951 was about 16 minutes compared to twenty something today. The fastest trains to Victoria also took 16 minutes.

    In 1951 you had more of a choice of stations. You could get to London Bridge from West Croydon in less than 20 minutes. You could get a train at Addiscombe at 0813 which would get you to London Bridge at 0840. That station would be very useful now but its closure and replacement with housing has just added to the congestion.

  3. nigestair says:

    While I agree with some of the suggested solutions, I think the idea of shuttle trains between London and East Croydon would make the situation even worse as the terminating trains would take up valuable platform space at East Croydon for extended periods, thus reducing capacity of the station.

    Guards vans, better luggage provision (which presently is a disgrace considering the trains travel through one, and sometimes (in the case of Thameslink trains) two, airports), and a Gatwick Express service which was not more expensive than the alternatives could all help.

  4. Nick Davies says:

    As I said last time Rod suggested this, even if you rebuild East Croydon to turn trains back there’s no capacity to run any extra trains to London. It’s just not physically possible to run an East Croydon shuttle without cutting services somewhere else. That said, the main purpose of the Thameslink project is to run trains through London Bridge rather than turning them back there, thus providing extra capacity and more services between East Croydon and London Bridge.

    • Isn’t one of the track capacity issues referred to here and by Nigel Geary the Gatwick Express?

      Over-priced and under-utilised, these long trains trundle along the busy commuter route every 15 minutes, largely empty and non-stop, providing no service for those who really need it.

      Even if half of these scheduled services were re-allocated to providing a (limited) stopping train, it could go some way to resolving the overcrowding of commuter services.

    • Rod Davies says:

      Nick, you’re probably right and I think I have admitted to knowing nothing about running a rail service. (my experience is limited to OO/HO Triang train set circa 1960)
      However, it seems rather absurd to have fairly empty trains leaving East Croydon for stations South. I do hear drivers frequently advising passengers to get off at East Croydon if they want a faster train to Gatwick.

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