THE MOST overcrowded train in the country last year ran out of Brighton station and was more overloaded than comparable rail services in India, The Argus can exclusively reveal.

At its busiest the 7am Thameslink service from Brighton to Bedford carried more than twice its capacity with 960 commuters squeezed onto a train designed for 420.

Arvindkumar Srivastava, regional general manager of India Railways’ vast Central District, told The Argus: “Indian trains are overcrowded but not that overcrowded.”

The most recent figures for overcrowding, released yesterday and covering autumn 2015, reveal the train run by Govia Thameslink reached a passenger load of 960 when it arrived at London Blackfriars at 8.20am, despite only having a standard passenger capacity of 420 allowing for standing passengers.

That means the train was carrying 229 per cent of its capacity.

A comparable journey into Mumbai on the West coast of India only suffers average peak overcrowding of 156 per cent.

According to the most recent Mumbai Suburban Rail Passenger Survey, its busiest Western Line service has a peak hour capacity of 3,522, and the maximum crowding reached 5,568 for the more popular fast service.

It comes as commuters have faced a reduced timetable because of the ongoing disputes between Southern and the RMT union and an announcement yesterday that the network will be brought to a standstill for an entire working week in August when they strike for five straight days.

Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Rail passengers are paying record amounts for their tickets and it's not acceptable that so many regularly have to stand.”

A spokesman for GTR stressed the 7am service was elongated shortly after the period in question to relieve overcrowding, and had been adversely affected by the cancellation of an earlier train.

He added: "Without knowing what methods of calculation were used, or what constitues an acceptable baseline figure, it is not possible to compare figures released in the UK to those from another country."

Yesterday the RMT union announced it will will strike from 00.01 on Monday August 8 to a 23.59 on Friday August 12, prior to the introduction of “driver only operation” trains on the network on August 21.

Union general secretary Mick Cash said the action had been forced on the union by GTR’s “arrogance and inaction” and GTR COO Dyan Crowther said it was unacceptable passengers would face so much disruption “all because the RMT is refusing to accept necessary change".

Councillor Andy Smith, Leader of Lewes District Council, wrote on Wednesday to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in support of the Mayor of London's recent suggestion that a senior team from TfL be put in temporary charge of the Southern part of the GTR franchise.

Lewes councillor Vic Ient is encouraging other local government bodies to do likewise to maximise pressure on action towards a resolution of the rail crisis.

Ana Christie from Sussex Chamber of Commerce said: “The recent disruption has had a huge impact on the economy, as productivity levels have been affected as employees are delayed travelling to work or to meetings. It is incredibly frustrating for everyone and a complete shambles.”

The Argus: Passengers crowded on a Mumbai trainPassengers crowded on a Mumbai train


PICTURE the Indian rail network and a series of images flick through the mind.

Passengers swaying by one arm off the sides of ageing rolling stock, families sitting on the roofs of carriages, station platforms a writhing sea of bodies.

Nobody is suggesting that Brighton’s – or Britain’s – trains are anything like that bad. But the fact remains that yesterday’s figures reveal that last autumn, the most overcrowded train in the country was considered more overloaded than comparable services in India.

The Government’s figures should be treated with caution. The report states they may be derived from one-off measurements and are subject to human counting errors.

Nonetheless these official statistics state that last spring the weekday 7am Brighton to Bedford service peaked at 222 per cent of capacity when it hit Blackfriars, with this rising to 229 per cent in the autumn.

No other service nationwide was close to being as bad. In both spring and autumn, only one other service broke 200 per cent.

Over in India, enormous efforts are being made to monitor and improve the country’s rail network. In the modern western city of Mumbai, whose suburban network takes in a geographical footprint greater than the distance from Brighton to London, progress is being made.

The city is served by three lines, the most popular of which is the Western Line. A journey from the northernmost station in the city of Virar to the centre of Mumbai takes about the same time as a fast service from Brighton to London.

The most recent Mumbai Suburban Rail Passenger Survey data on overcrowding comes from a 2013 report based on interviews with 25,000 Indian commuters.

The report notes the 12-car trains used on the Western Line have a rated capacity of 3,522 for the “peak hour section load” which is used to estimate the average number of passengers travelling per train. It acknowledges that at peak times the line is “much above” the rated capacity.

“Maximum capacity observed is 4,573 and 5,568 for slow services and fast services respectively,” the report states. But this only equates to 130 per cent and 158 per cent respectively of capacity.

The network also uses nine-car trains on the smaller Harbour Line, which have a rated capacity of 1,800. Overcrowding has been measured at a peak of 2,943. That is 163 per cent of capacity.

Veteran travel correspondent Simon Calder, of The Independent, told The Argus: “Wherever you go transport is getting better and better. I’ve travelled a great deal by train in India and it’s a relaxing and easy experience and you can usually find a seat. Rush hour in Mumbai can be a bit crowded but it’s not bad.

“I’ve travelled at rush hour in India and you usually find they allow for quite a lot of standing room but it doesn’t feel cheek by jowl.

“He said that with experience of busy trains in Mexico City, Bangkok, and Tokyo as well as India he could not think of a comparison to the standard daily commute endured by Britons.I’m struggling to think of other parts of the world where you’d end up standing for the whole duration of a 50-mile journey.”

Upon hearing the figures, Arvindkumar Srivastava, regional general manager of India Railways’ vast Central District, said: “Indian trains are overcrowded, but not that overcrowded.”