Rail services must improve before public turn to trains

STEVE CANAVAN: A real cliffhanger in the Lakes

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It is about time that one of the biggest problems affecting our rail services was sorted once and for all.

There’s an obvious problem for commuters who use the train to travel between Portsmouth and London Waterloo every day – space. Or to be precise, the lack of it.

Packing people into carriages like sardines in a tin isn’t acceptable and never has been.

Yet more than half of South West Train’s services between this city and the capital are run using class-450 units and there have been complaints about the size of the seats and the arm and leg room they allow.

Commuters already have a lengthy journey ahead of them. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether they are going to be able to travel in comfort as well.

The truth of the matter is that there is a roomier train available and using the Desiro 444 model more often between Portsmouth and London would undoubtedly give rail users a more comfortable experience.

We are pleased transport minister Theresa Villiers has agreed to set up a meeting between South West Trains and passenger groups to discuss the issues raised in the House of Commons by the group of Hampshire MPs.

Perhaps there are other issues that should be addressed at the same time, in particular the over-crowding experienced by those catching trains to London and back again during the rush hours.

By the time the trains from Portsmouth arrive at stations such as Guildford and Woking they are packed.

Adding more carriages might sound like a sensible solution but the people who run the trains aren’t the same people who run the stations.

Privatisation has created a mish-mash and the government really does need to sort that out.

We are always being urged to get out of our cars and off the roads. But that will only happen if public transport becomes an adequate substitution.

People will be reluctant to swap their cars for trains if that means sitting in a crowded carriage, in tight seats that don’t give them enough leg room.

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