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Train service is fifth most overcrowded
A RUSH-hour train through Oxfordshire was yesterday named as one of the most overcrowded in the UK.
But rail bosses last night said the service was now better placed to meet demand.
First Great Western’s (FGW) Mark Hopwood, pictured, spoke after the Banbury to London Paddington service was named the fifth most overcrowded from an autumn 2011 snapshot survey.
The Government’s top 10 most overcrowded services found 356 people went for 225 seats on a weekday survey for the 6.30am from Banbury.
It is the first time the Department for Transport has released overcrowding figures for England and Wales.
But the overcrowding was worst outside of the county as the service made multiple stops on the way to the capital, where it arrived at 8.52am, a passenger group said.
Last year’s three-car service left Oxford at 7am and Radley at 7.06am, Culham at 7.10am, Appleford at 7.13am and Didcot at 7.28am.
The operator said it was upgraded to five cars in September, adding 18 standard and 41 first-class seats and more standing room.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said the Government was investing in more carriages and operators must reduce crowding.
Managing director Mr Hopwood said: “Despite the lack of availability of suitable additional trains in the UK, in the past three years we’ve been doing just what the minister suggests.”
Previous top 10 figures released in August 2011, but relating to autumn 2010, for London and the South East featured four Oxford services. All 10 were by FGW into Paddington.
But the last survey, released in April 2012 but relating to spring 2011, had only one service from Oxford, the 7.31am service which had 381 people going for 210 seats.
Mr Hopwood said: “The latest survey figures show just how committed First Great Western is to tackling overcrowding. We will continue to look for opportunities to add further carriages when they become available.”
Dennis Tan, of passenger group OxRail, said the 6.30am service was avoided by city commuters because of the multiple stops.
He said: “You can still get a seat but on really busy days, such as on a Monday or Thursday, you run a small risk of not getting a seat.”
It comes after the firm announced it would increase season ticket prices from Oxford to London by 4.2 per cent.
The Government demanded a 4.2 per cent average increase for regulated fares across the FGW network from January 1 as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
He said individual fares could change from -0.8 per cent to 9.2 per cent as long as the average increase for the operator was 4.2 per cent.
This meant that Bicester and Banbury commuters face a 9.2 per cent season ticket rise for Chiltern Railways services.
This will see a 12-month season ticket rise from £4,348 to £4,532.
TOP 10 MOST OVERCROWDED ON THE RAILWAYS
1. Henley-on-Thames 7.44am to London Paddington: 225 seats, 404 passengers.
2. Woking 7.32am to London Waterloo: 738 seats, 1,209 passengers.
3. London Euston 6.13pm to Birmingham New Street: 698 seats, 1,129 passengers.
4. London Euston 4.48pm to Birmingham New Street: 452 passengers, 722 passengers.
5. Banbury 6.30am to London Paddington: 225 seats, 356 passengers.
6. Stourbridge Junction 7.55am to Stratford- upon-Avon: 355 seats, 558 passengers.
7. Manchester Airport 6.23am to Middlesbrough: 166 seats, 257 passengers.
8. London Liverpool Street 6.17pm to Shenfield: 864 seats, 1,329 passengers.
9. Alton 7.14am to London Waterloo: 738 seats, 1,123 passengers.
10. London Euston 5.46pm to Birmingham New Street: 738 passengers, 1,121 passengers.