LTS Railway

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:07 pm on 13 February 2001.

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Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Hornchurch 12:07, 13 February 2001

My hon. Friend raises a matter that I took up with the Health and Safety Executive. We now have such a state of overcrowding on the LTS line that I was concerned that there was some breach of health and safety legislation. I wrote to the HSE which tried to address the problem honestly, but there was nothing much that it could say apart from the fact that it becomes hazardous when there is a crash, which is a fairly obvious statement. It said that c2c was not contravening any health and safety legislation or regulations and that overcrowding became dangerous if the train stopped suddenly, there was a crash or it bumped into something. That is fairly obvious, and I should have thought that prevention was better than cure.

We were told by many people connected with c2c that the new class 357 trains would not be four-car units but only eight-car units and larger. That was part of the plan to encourage people to travel during off-peak times. Many people in the City, for instance, work flexi-time so they can go in later or earlier and can travel when the trains are less busy. There were going to be longer units, but precisely the reverse has happened. We now have more and more four-car units, even during the rush hour. I regularly travel during the rush hour on both routes and the four-car trains are enormously overcrowded.

Interestingly, the new class 357 trains, if they finally appear, will encourage people to stand because they have fewer seats than the old slam-door stock. Their capacity overall is slightly bigger, but that capacity relies on more people standing. That is slightly worrying. I have travelled on the new trains and when they work they are quite nice. They are quite comfortable, but it is worrying that the railway company seems to be encouraging people to stand. We have had some notorious accidents over the past few years on our railways and I should have thought that it was safer for passengers to sit.

Mr. Darvill is quite right. The overcrowding on some of these old stock carriages can be quite alarming and it reaches worrying proportions at times. I have travelled on trains from time to time that are so overcrowded that one wonders whether people will start to faint. The great hope is that at some point the class 357 trains will come into service and there will be improvements. There has always been a history of jam tomorrow with c2c. We are told not to worry and that there will be great improvements, but they simply have not happened.