Rail regulator figures ‘hide’ real passenger numbers

RAY King has been fighting for better train services on the Liverpool Street-to-Enfield line in East London for 15 years. But the former Fleet Street journalist, who has been the convenor of the local rail user group at Cambridge Heath and London Fields stations since 1995, believes rail regulators are using the wrong data and failing to realise just how many people really use the stations:

THERE are now well over four times the number of passengers using Cambridge Heath and London Fields stations than the Government and railway managers have been told officially.

Our figures are based on counting actual passengers and show 677,760 at Cambridge Heath alone during the past 12 months.

The latest official figure from the Office of Rail Regulation—which politicians and planners rely on—is only 150,220.

We also know that almost 900,000 commuters used London Fields during 2010, while the Regulator’s Office claims fewer than 185,000.

We will use our figures to campaign for better services and to improve station conditions.

The weakness of the Rail Regulation figures is that they are only estimates based on ticket sales.

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But many passengers now use Oyster cards and travelcards which the Regulator seems unable to include.

The Regulator’s figures appear to show passengers at Cambridge Heath have ‘fallen’ by 13 per cent—but we know they really went up by seven per cent.

Those using using London Fields appear to have fallen by 11 per cent—instead of having risen by 21 per cent.

Recent passenger growth at both stations was 15 per cent with numbers increasing from 3,700 a day in May, 2009, to 4,300 in the same month a year later.

If sensible decisions are to be made about investment in public transport, the Regulator needs to improve the way it compiles and presents its statistics.

Meanwhile, the Cambridge Heath & London Fields User Group has met station manager Simi Tinubu to thank her for her team’s efforts to improve conditions at both stations, which are cleaner these days.

But anti-social people at Cambridge Heath are using it as a lavatory!

We have raised other problems, such as poor signs, inadequate lighting and urgent repairs need to the shelters at Cambridge Heath.

There are also breakdowns in the customer information system. At Cambridge Heath it was out of action several hours on the day of our headcount. At London Fields, part of the display was unreadable and passengers told us it had been like that for months.

But thanks to those headcounts, we now know that more than 1,200 people use Cambridge Heath on Saturdays and 2,200 use London Fields.

More people use the stations on Saturday evenings than weekday evenings. We are convinced more would use them on Sundays if there was a better service to match weekdays.

Introducing Oyster card readers has certainly helped passenger numbers.

But the card system is undermined when it doesn’t work properly. One of the Oyster readers at London Fields has been unreliable for more than a year.

Train services have improved a little on the Enfield Town service.

But we want some Chingford trains stopping—at the moment no Chingford trains stop here and you have to take the Enfield train to Hackney Downs and change if you need to head that way. That’s our next challenge.

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