Thought trains were overcrowded? It's going to get worse say MPs
It's always galling when The Powers That Be tell you that you should be going green and using public transport, especially in light of the fact that, for the most part, public transport can be a hellish experience.
What's worse is when you read a report saying it will probably get worse.
And so, in a report from MPs, it's thought that overcrowding on trains in England and Wales will get substantially worse over the next four years, despite the fact the price of tickets will be going up. Wonderful.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Department for Transport's own plans suggested targets for increasing passenger places would be missed. Chairwoman of the PAC Margaret Hodge said MPs were concerned that the "already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable".
Her report - Increasing Passenger Rail Capacity - said the main problem was a lack of any incentive for the industry to supply extra capacity without additional taxpayer support. At the moment, train operators are required to use "reasonable endeavours" to give peak passengers "a reasonable expectation of a seat within 20 minutes of boarding", but alas, there's no legal obligation to expand the amount of carriages or improve stations.
This means that the taxpayer has to provide funds to Network Rail to carry out any upgrade work, which inevitably never comes.
One of the solutions suggested, apart from longer platforms, is that more operators should employ a smart card service (like the Oyster Card) which would allow train companies the chance to use the information about passenger numbers, which would hopefully help them to tackle the problem of overcrowding.
Hodge told the BBC that rail operating companies in the UK were more inefficient than those in other countries, so any reforms must be properly overseen. "We don't think the regulator has been doing a particularly good job. We think it's time to look again at the way that Network Rail and the operating companies are accountable to the public," she said. "They don't seem to think about how to use public money more efficiently. They think that the answer always lies in more taxpayers' money or in commuters paying higher fares."
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, described the report as a "shocking indictment of the total failure of rail privatisation". He added: "Passengers are forced to pay through the nose to travel in obsolete and overcrowded carriages while private train operating companies are laughing all the way to the bank."
Best start the car up...