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West Coast Railway Line

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with Virgin Trains on passenger capacity on their West Coast Main Line services; what (a) legislative provisions and (b) guidance issued by his Department govern the number of persons who may be accommodated in one unit of passenger rolling stock, with particular reference to health and safety requirements; what sanctions apply to train operating companies which operate services on which such limits are exceeded; and if he will make a statement. (245090)

The Secretary of State met with Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Trains) and Mr. Brian Souter (Stagecoach) on 19 November to discuss the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line. This upgrade of the infrastructure has allowed the new timetable, which started on 14 December 2008, to increase capacity on many of the West Coast Main Line services, most notably a 50 per cent. increase of services between London and Birmingham/Manchester and a 70 per cent. increase for these services on the weekends.

There are no legislative provisions regarding crowding on trains. The Office of the Rail Regulator states that there is no legal limit on the number of passengers that can travel in any given train coach. In this, trains differ from other modes of transport—most notably buses and aeroplanes. The heavy engineering involved means that trains are designed to operate effectively and safely even when they are fully loaded to maximum capacity. The number of passengers on board does not affect a train's operating performance or structural integrity.

Some train operators have a capacity benchmark regime. This does not apply to Virgin Trains.