First Great Western has begun to make strides in cutting overcrowding on rush-hour trains between Oxford and London.
Newly-released Department for Transport (DfT) figures showed a reduction in the number of Oxford trains making its biannual overcrowded list. Just one Oxford to London Paddington train was in the spring 2011 list, compared to four in the autumn 2010 figures.
First Great Western (FGW) hopes that a project to provide 4,500 more seats on rush-hour routes between February and September this year will continue the trend.
Cherwell Rail Users’ Group chairman Chris Bates said: “First Great Western has been trying to improve overcrowding for the better part of three years.
“They have been going out of their way to strike a deal with the DfT and I have not got a bad thing to say about their efforts.
“The 4,500 more seats will go a long way to alleviating the problem.”
FGW featured in all 10 of the DfT’s top 10 list of overcrowded trains in the South East and London in autumn 2010.
Four Oxford to London trains featured, including the 6.15pm from London – which was 177 per cent of capacity and came third in the table – and the 6.07am from Oxford – which was 168 per cent of capacity and came sixth.
The company now has only five of its trains in the spring 2011 figures, which were released this week, including just one between Oxford and London.
The 7.31am train from Oxford to London Paddington, since replaced by the 7.15am from Charlbury, was the third most overcrowded, with 210 more passengers than the 381 seats.
Rush-hour trains between Oxford and London will be increased from seven carriages to eight, meaning 82 extra seats on each service.
Three Oxford and London Paddington morning trains will increase from seven carriages to eight, the 6.27am, 6.56am and 8.06am.
The 7.15am Charlbury to London Paddington will also increase to eight carriages.
Other London Paddington to Oxford services in the evening will increase from seven to eight carriages, the 4.22pm, 4.49pm, 5.22pm, 5.50pm and 6.51pm.
FGW spokesman Dan Panes said: “A great deal has already been done – including re- timing and strengthening services with existing carriages where possible.
“We are also in the process of introducing more than 4,500 additional seats before summer, which will have a further impact in the coming months.”
Mr Panes added: “Although we recognise this is not a fix-all, it will go a huge way to delivering the improvements our customers need to see.”
Passenger Focus spokesman Dervish Mertcan said: “Overcrowding is a daily struggle for many commuters, so it is important that the rail industry appreciates just how busy their services are.
“Significant, sustained, long-term investment is necessary to not only reduce overcrowding, but to ensure that it doesn’t get worse if passenger numbers increase.”
Network Rail is also working to improve the network between Oxford and London and plans to electrify the line between the cities by 2016.