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Two years, £500,000 and 178 pages to tell us that we want our trains to be on time and uncrowded!!


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Two years, £500,000 and 178 pages to tell us that we want our trains to be on time and uncrowded


By Martin Delgado

Last updated at 8:35 AM on 24th May 2009



It was the biggest-ever study of overcrowding on Britain’s railways, taking two years and costing the taxpayer £500,000 as commuters were secretly filmed as they struggled in to work.


But last night the 178-page report for the Rail Safety and Standards Board was condemned as ‘an astonishing exercise in rehashing the blindingly obvious’ – for revealing people are happiest when trains are on time and they can sit down.


article-0-05C32B800000044D-295_468x286.jpg Cattle truck conditions: The study found commuters don't enjoy their journeys when their trains are overcrowded


To nobody’s surprise, it concluded passengers avoid situations ‘where they are likely to be pushed and shoved’ and that they ‘choose to position themselves away from others to maintain a space around them and minimise discomfort’.


They ‘often seek out suitable seating in preference to standing’, and ‘their emotional state before the journey can affect their tolerance towards others’.


Another less-than-astonishing finding is that putting belongings on a seat discourages others from sitting down, and that commuters are likely to be in a better mood in the evening than the morning because they are on their way home.


The consultants concluded people are likely to be in a ‘positive emotional state’ if their train is punctual and announcements are audible and comprehensible, and in a ‘negative’ frame of mind if the service is late and no one tells them why.


article-1187010-051080A2000005DC-833_468x303.jpg Facing the obvious: A page from the report using happy and sad faces to indicate how a traveller feels on a journey


And the report – illustrated with ‘sad’ and ‘happy’ faces – says: ‘Passengers’ comfort and positioning are affected by fellow passengers’ appearance, size and smell.’


Rail users are lumped into bizarre categories in the document. ‘Snipers’ hover next to an occupied seat, ready to take it when it becomes vacant, while ‘Sentinels’ lean against a partition, thought to be the most tolerable standing spot.


‘Blockers’ hold the grab rail, making it impossible for others to pass. ‘Midfielders’ are unable to get the Sentinel or Blocker position yet are reluctant to move down the aisle.


‘Hostages’ stand wherever they can find a relatively comfortable space while ‘Opportunists’ squeeze on to the train just before the doors close, leaving ‘Heroes’ to fight through the crowd in search of an aisle space or seat.


The RSSB is the industry’s safety watchdog and its £12million-a-year research programme is funded by the Department for Transport.


The report was prepared by Davis Associates, based in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.


Its psychologists and behavioural experts spent months interviewing and observing travellers all over Britain and an ‘undercover passenger’ used a miniature video camera concealed in a gift-wrapped cardboard tube inside a carrier bag to record travellers’ behaviour in what transport campaigners have described as ‘cattle-truck’ conditions.


article-1187010-0511E961000005DC-841_468x291.jpg Commuter behaviour: A colour-coded diagram shows the seven different types of passenger identified by the consultants


Routes studied included Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, King’s Cross to Newcastle and Southampton to Manchester, as well as commuter services operated by Southern, South Eastern, One and First Capital Connect.


But Tony Ambrose, of passenger group More Train Less Strain, said: ‘It beggars belief. It’s bad enough having the highest fares and worst overcrowding in Europe without the added unpleasantness of finding out you have been filmed without your permission.


‘The report is astonishing. It’s a rehash, in consultant-speak, of what is blindingly obvious to every traveller.’


The RSSB defended its study as a ‘practical appraisal of real-life situations’.

A spokesman said: ‘In total, about one hour of filming was undertaken, based on one person travelling for four to five days.’


Davis Associates declined to comment.

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