Over the last decade the number of rail passenger journeys in Great Britain has grown by approximately 70%. In 2016-17 there were 1.71 billion passenger journeys and it is expected that demand will double in the next 25 years . Despite increases in carrying capacity on the railways, overcrowding has been an issue of concern for some years, both on trains and in stations, and has been prominent in news reports about Southern Rail, Northern Rail (in relation to problems associated with the timetable changes in 2018) and the maintenance works at London Bridge station.
RSSB study T307 (2005) concluded that “there was very little direct evidence of the health effects of crowding”, a position reflected in the ORR’s (2005) health and safety policy on train crowding. However, this policy does not cover other aspects of crowding at stations or at the platform/train interface.
On an initial analysis of SMIS data, RSSB study T605 (2009) estimated that crowding contributed to 1.4% of on-train risk and 0.5% of on-station risk, equating to approximately 0.4 Fatalities and Weighted Injuries (FWI) per year. However, there was considerable uncertainty around this estimate, because crowding is sometimes a contributory cause of an accident rather than the reported cause. Workshop discussions indicated that the FWI from crowding could be as high as 1.5 per year. Further analysis of SMIS data, together with input from the workshops, led to an adjusted estimated FWI figure of 0.5 per year.
In addition, T605 concluded that there was no evidence that on-train crowding increased (or decreased) the risk from major train accidents (derailments or collisions).
Subsequent to this previous research, acute crowding incidents such as those seen at London Bridge have led to many complaints from the public, some referring to the perceived health impacts of crowding. The ORR has therefore felt it is necessary to respond to these concerns, especially given the prospect of further increases in passenger numbers. A 2015 meeting on crowd management, hosted by the ORR, led to four undergraduate human factors students undertaking knowledge searches that are intended to help update existing advice. The final report (T1106) is expected to be available on www.sparkrail.org.
In addition, the Royal Society for Public Health has linked commuting with reduced mental wellbeing, poorer physical health as a result of raised blood pressure and less time available for physical activity. Their survey of passengers revealed overcrowding and delays to be two of the main factors perceived to negatively impact perceived health and wellbeing.
In the context of these recent concerns, this project is intended to extend the earlier RSSB guidance and enable the ORR to update its policy position on crowding.