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Overcrowding on Virgin Trains (21st July 2010)

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Wednesday 21st July 2010

08:23 from Rugby to Euston

Having embarked at Rugby at 08:25 (2mins late; left station at 08:33) I wriggled through the already packed train from coach D to the train manger, Noormohammad, in first-class (coach J).


ME: Are you going to deregulate the trains?  There are no seats in Standard and lots of people standing in the vestibules.  There’s a health and safety issue.

NOORMOHAMMAD: I will take a look but first-class is very busy too.

ME: first-class is half empty – I’ve just been through it.

NOORMOHAMMAD: I’ll look into it.  [walks away to make announcement]

ANOUNCEMENT: Train from…to…If you have baggage on your seat, please remove it to make room for other passengers.

At this point I spoke with a couple of fellow passengers, also in the vestibule.  They stated that other services had been cancelled due to overhead-cables having been stolen.  I made the point that the train operators should, therefore, have been able to anticipate overcrowding and should have taken appropriate action, like instructing staff to deregulate first-class.


ME: So you’re not going to deregulate?  There are no seats in Standard.

NOORMOHAMMAD: I’ll take a look.

ME: well I’m going to go through the train and count how many are standing and how many seats are available.

NOORMOHAMMAD: As you like.

I then made my way from the front of the train and worked my way back:

Coach K (First-class) 9 seats taken; 9 seats free

Coach J (First-class) 23 seats taken; 23 seats free

Coach H (First-class) 28 seats taken; 18 seats free

Coach G (First-class) 28 seats taken; 18 seats free

Total of 78 seats free in first-class


I was only able to get as far as coach B as that coach was so full of people standing in the aisles that I couldn’t get through to coach A.  From where I was stood I counted 20 but know there were more mingled in the bodies at the end.

On my way to coach B, I counted 28 people loitering in the door vestibules with another 22 standing in the coach aisles.

So, in total that’s 70 people not seated PLUS whatever carnage was occurring in coach A.

As you can imagine, there were no seats with merely baggage on…

I returned to first-class where the train manager was still checking tickets.


ME: I’ve just been through the train as far as coach B.  It’s packed – I couldn’t even get through coach B for people standing in the aisle.  There are no seats.  Are you going to deregulate first-class?

NOORMOHAMMAD: Customer charter states that we will get you from A-B but cannot guarantee a seat.

ME: Yes, I know about the Customer Charter but what about health and safety – the train is packed, what if the train were to stop suddenly?

NOORMOHAMMAD: If I asked them [the passengers] to get out [having stopped somewhere] they wouldn’t get out.  They could’ve got onto a later train – they run every 20 minutes.

ME: But how would they know the train was so full?  They’d need to be told by someone…someone like the train manager…

NOORMOHAMMAD: There is liaison at the station.

ME: Really?  I’ve never heard an announcement telling people not to board due to overcrowding.  Look, there are plenty of seats in first-class, you can deregulate the train.

NOORMOHAMMAD: They can ask for compensation.

ME: Really, how do they do that?  What about the safety issue?  Are you going to deregulate?

NOORMOHAMMAD: I’m going through the train now and finding people seats.

I took a seat in first.  I watched for a little while and realised that he wasn’t going to make any announcement regarding deregulating, so approached him again.

ME: Are you going to make an announcement?  By the time you make it to standard-class it’ll be too late.

By this point I could see NOORMOHAMMAD was getting pissed off.

NOORMOHAMMAD: If you have a complaint, take it to customer services.

I didn’t take it any further.  There were no further announcements of any kind.  The badly overcrowded train arrived at Euston, a bad start to the day for hundreds of Virgin Train customers, many paying hundreds of pounds for the experience…‘service’.

At Euston, I went to the Virgin office to ask about compensation for overcrowding.  They were unaware of any such scheme but said I could fill in a ‘Comments Form’.

See related blog articles for other examples of overcrowding on Virgin Trains as well as a digest of related regulations.

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