Complete and utter ahmadness (part two)
In his letter of 25 September 2015 to Lord Hollick, Lord Ahmad stated that the statistics quoted in Table 15 of the Economic Affairs Committee’s [HS2] report on the “percentage of passengers standing on long-distance fast services” were predicated on the assumption that passengers only stand when 100% of seats on a train service are occupied.
[…] This is not the same as the actual number or percentage of people standing, as people stand even when there are seats available. In addition, evidence suggest that on long-distance services, passengers feel the impacts of crowding at much lower levels of loading than 100%. The Government’s response makes reference to this in paragraph 2.32:
“Given factors such as passengers with luggage and unequal distribution of passengers along a train, intercity services loaded at 80% and above will feel overcrowded. Behavioural research shows that on long distance services passengers begin to feel negative effects from crowding at between 60% and 70% loading, and in practice people will be standing before there is a passenger for every seat on board the train.”
Therefore, crowding is not only an issue where there are more passengers than seats but at lower levels of loading where seats remain available. In addition the effects of crowding on passenger experience have an impact at levels below 100% especially on long-distance services.
Over the course of the day, load factors on intercity West Coast services are well under 50%. So in general, there are plenty of empty seats. Even in the peak hours, most trains are not full.
What Lord Ahmad seems to be arguing, is that West Coast corridor capacity should be funded so as to guarantee there are plenty of empty seats on all peak trains, so that passengers do not begin to feel the ‘negative effects from crowding which begin at loadings of between 60% and 70%’.
Of course, that is a ludicrous proposition. Do airlines or hotels aim to limit occupancy to sixty percent, so that customers don’t start to feel “negative effects”?
Given the huge subsidies involved in providing rail capacity, it should be government policy to maximise loadings and revenue, rather than to move empty seats around. People who want a guarantee of less crowded conditions have the option of paying for the more spacious first class accommodation.
It is surprising that GB intercity carriages aren’t fitted with occupancy sensors. They could help standing passengers identify which parts of the train are least crowded.