Railway stations in London may be far more overcrowded than official statistics suggest, according to a study.
The usage numbers at Cambridge Heath station have been underestimated by 358 per cent, while the figures for London Fields station fall 264 per cent below the actual usage by commuters, the study by West Anglia Routes Group found.
The Office of Rail Regulation produces usage statistics for every rail station in the country, explained London TravelWatch director of policy and investigation Tim Bellenger, but concerns have been raised about the accuracy of the figures.
“[West Anglia Routes Group] did several surveys over the years and found that there’s a huge gap between the number of people they record and the official statistics, which are based on ticket sales and some travel card survey data from as far back as 2001.
“The closer you got to Zone 2, the greater the discrepancy, so Cambridge Heath and London Fields had major differences between Office of Rail Regulation figures and those on the ground.”
Inaccurate usage statistics could have a heavy impact on commuters travelling in and out of London, Bellenger said, with stations which badly need investment not receiving the correct amount.
He said: “The official statistics are used by other people to justify investment and determine satisfaction with the rail network. If those official statistics don’t reflect the true number of users then it means it can potentially skew investment or prevent investment happening in the first place.
“It can also give a false impression about how satisfied people are with the service.”
Bellenger said other transport facilities in the capital were better equipped to measure user numbers.
The trams on Croydon Tramlink count people going in and out automatically, while passengers on Docklands Light Railway are counted using a beam. But accurate counting cannot take place on the railway unless investment is made at every station, Bellenger said.
The concerns raised by London TravelWatch come after the Transport Salaried Staffs Association accused rail operators of having no firm data on passenger numbers during the morning and evening peak travel periods.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Every transport secretary says they want to end overcrowding, particularly in the South East. How can they even begin to do this until they known the exact size of the problem?”
The Association of Train Operating Companies dismissed the claim as “nonsense”.