Squeezed as well as swindled

19 August 2013

Last week ASLEF members played their part in national protests over soaring fares for passengers. Yesterday the Sunday Times pointed out that while passengers will continue to pay more money, they will certainly get less space. The squeeze is on as far as train operators are concerned.

Mark Hookham reported that while most train franchises allocate 0.45 square metres per passenger, the government has specified that the new Thameslink franchise has a specification of almost half this – a mere quarter of a square metre.

Only South West Trains currently uses this specification,for its London suburban services. The government has agreed it for Thameslink despite saying the specification should be for ‘metro-like commuter services travelling short distances’. Thameslink trains travel from Bedford to Brighton,a journey that takes two and a quarter hours.

Mick points out that there are regulations in this country covering the carriage of animals such as sheep and cows – but no legislation that covers humans.

‘It is difficult to believe that the government thinks commuters should pay fortunes for their tickets and then be content to be herded into appallingly tight spaces for hours on end,’ Mick Whelan says. ‘It is well documented that the morning Henley to Paddington train carries 84% more passengers that it is supposed to. Are they trying to sabotage the railway success story?

‘Fares are due to rise by 4.1% in January – while at the same time the government appears to think it is fine to halve the amount of space allocated to passengers. ASLEF will continue to back train users in their protests about the desperate way they are treated by government and operators.’

Maria Eagle has pledged to review minimum passenger space allocations when Labour is returned to power.

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