In November 2013 Nestrans commissioned AECOM to survey the occupancy levels on peak period rail services in the north-east between Stonehaven and Inverurie. A key finding shows that there is an increase in overcrowded journeys on peak services. Following the full results of this survey Nestrans have contacted key agencies including Transport Scotland, Scotrail and Network Rail to identify some of the issues that face train passengers in the north-east.
Nestrans Chair, Councillor Peter Argyle said, “Nestrans continue to work with these agencies to resolve the issue of overcrowding as improved rail links and connections are a key element of our Regional Transport Strategy. The potential of the north-east needs to be recognised, the commuter demand in the area continues to grow as shown by the Inverurie passenger numbers rising by 216% between 2004 and 2012.”
The survey focused on routes between Stonehaven, Portlethen and Aberdeen; and Aberdeen, Dyce and Inverurie. The results showed that the Dyce to Aberdeen route most commonly exceeded the total number of seats available and Inverurie to Dyce experienced the highest percentage occupancy levels, particularly in the morning peak. On services between Aberdeen and Portlethen/Stonehaven, high occupancies were also noted in some services in the morning peak but were found to occur more often in the afternoon peak.
The southbound journeys into Aberdeen during the morning peak may need to be reviewed in the future. As a number of these services originate in Inverness, by the time they reach Inverurie the occupancy levels already exceed 100%.
Overall, 24 services were surveyed, totalling 42 individual journeys (ie a service from Inverurie-Aberdeen offers journeys both between Inverurie and Dyce and Dyce to Aberdeen) and found that 10 services with a total of 16 journeys were overcrowded – they were carrying more passengers than seats available.
Transport Scotland expect passengers should not have to stand on board a journey of longer than 10 minutes and several of the individual journeys in the area have journey times exceeding that. The survey revealed on the 07:13 Inverurie to Dyce service more than a third of the passengers were standing, which is a journey time of 13 minutes.
It is generally considered that journey times between stations such as Aberdeen to Dyce and Aberdeen to Portlethen are around the limits of acceptable standing time as stated by Transport Scotland. However the survey also shows that when a service reaches 50-60% of capacity, passengers choose to stand or use seats within the vestibule. 87.5% of all surveyed journeys experienced standing passengers.
When comparing services north and south of Aberdeen, the number of journeys with occupancies exceeding 100% was found to be slightly higher on services operating north of Aberdeen.
The findings follow similar survey work undertaken in June and October 2011. On this occasion it indicates that overcrowding in peak time trains is significant and appears to have worsened since the 2011 survey. When comparing the years it shows that 16 of the surveyed journeys had an occupancy level exceeding 100% in the 2013 survey, compared with 11 journeys in the October 2011 survey.
The full version of the survey can be found here