Secret government data shows crowded afternoon trains

Some South Coast trains are indeed standing room only, according to government data uncovered by a Freedom of Information request.
Some South Coast trains are indeed standing room only, according to government data uncovered by a Freedom of Information request.

Secret data from Transport for NSW confirm afternoon rail services to the South Coast are standing room only.

The data also shows a measure introduced to stop crowding is an abject failure.

For several years commuters have been complaining about overcrowding.

Over the last 18 months, Transport for NSW has received the equivalent of one complaint a day about crowded trains.

The most often-complained about services are the 3.24pm and 3.54pm Central to the South Coast services.

These trains only have four cars and commuters have said they need to get to Central at least 20 minutes early to have any chance of getting a seat.

Transport for NSW regularly releases data about the crowding on peak-hour services.

However, as these two trains fall outside the afternoon peak, the government department has declined to release any details about the number of people on them.

Through a Freedom of Information request, the Mercury has obtained detailed figures for those trains – and they show the talk of crowding is very, very real.

The load data was requested for those trains on two random dates – May 2 and 3.

The dates were chosen because they didn’t coincide with school or public holidays.

One of the four trains on those days was standing room only.

By the time the 3.24pm on May 2 reached Wolli Creek it had 458 passengers with seating available for only 432.

At Sutherland it got worse, with the train carrying 496 passengers – that means 16 commuters standing in each carriage.

Of the other three services, two of them were carrying just under 400 passengers.

These figures are based on Opal card data – they do not include those travelling with a concession entitlement card or those dodging the fare altogether, so the numbers of passengers on the trains could well be higher.

The data also calls into question the point of U-stops – which was the much-touted measure meant to address overcrowding.

A U-stop is a stop where passengers are not allowed to get off and is designed to stop Sydney commuters from catching South Coast services.

On the 3.24pm and 3.54pm trains Hurstville and Sutherland are both designated U-stops.

However, the data shows that plenty of commuters are ignoring the U-stops.

Across those two dates May, 208 commuters on those trains got off at Hurstville and 37 at Sutherland

That equates to 245 commuters who weren’t supposed to even be on those trains – or 61 per train.