Today, we exclusively reveal photographic proof of important health and safety related work at Victoria station that has been postponed by the Department for Transport/Network Rail. We expect the Gibb report to highlight this concern, and wish to alert press and MPs to the fact that sources close to Gibb have now confirmed the report was ready for release on April 6th of this year.
The following images come in two pairs. In each pair, the first is a photograph of the current layout at Victoria, and the second a computer simulation from Network Rail of work that should have already been carried out to ease the overcrowding:
Senior Network Rail managers highlighted to Chris Gibb on a visit to Victoria station in late 2016 that there were problems with severe congestion for Brighton mainline passengers. The following comment, and everything else in quotes, comes directly from a Network Rail manager:
“There aren’t enough ticket gates for passengers using platforms 15-19. A rebuild of the gate-line was scheduled to have been completed as part of the congestion relief project in CP5 [Network Rail Control Period 5] but was postponed to CP6 [2019-24] to save costs. We made Gibb well aware of how ridiculous the decision was and how long passengers are having to wait to leave the station. We’re hoping he’ll recommend the work is carried out immediately – it’s an accident waiting to happen. This is work that was first planned 20 years ago”
The Network Rail managers informed Gibb that at peak times, passengers were observed queuing up to 5 minutes to pass through the gates at platforms 15-19.
Gibb also inspected the dedicated Gatwick Express platforms and asked why 12-car trains from Brighton were now routinely using platforms with ticket barriers designed to cope with far fewer passengers.
“It’s an unacceptable situation. It’s the first sight of London for tourists from the airport and we’ve had complaints from the Gatwick people who said the experience is costing them travellers”
Following a subsequent risk assessment, Network Rail identified safety concerns about passengers backing up in the confined space and the ability to evacuate in emergency. They have since ordered staff to leave a mesh gate between the concourse at 15-19 and the Gatwick Express platforms unlocked at peak times.
“If passengers knew it was unlocked they could skip the ticket barriers altogether, so we leave it shut but unlocked in case of emergency”
Victoria staff are now regularly asking control to hold trains outside the station to prevent simultaneous arrivals on platforms 15-19 and limit the flow of passengers, leading to knock-on delays on the mainline.
Platform 19, where the platform narrows to 6 feet in places because of roof supports, has been identified as a particular problem.
“We try to ensure the busiest services coming from the coast never arrive on platform 19. There’s a real risk that if anything happened to passengers, we could be prosecuted. When we’ve had a full train arriving – and then passengers for the subsequent departure heading in to the crowd – it’s been chaos. We’ve had panic attacks and even a kid slipping between the platform and a train.”
Comment from ABC:
Please note, our pursuit of the Gibb report is part of a long-standing lobbying campaign for our commuter group and not connected to our legal action against the Department for Transport.
“Commuters experienced another night of chaos on Southern Rail last night, with an unusually high number of issues contributing to the breakdown of service, including a trackside fire. This resulted in delays, cancellations, diversions, overcrowding and skipped stations for passengers, many of whom spent hours trying to get home.
Though the majority of passengers have so far blamed the company, we feel duty-bound to step forward and share what information we have on the impact that issues at Victoria Station may have had on last night’s suffering. The above information from a Network Rail manager shows that important health and safety work to solve passenger congestion has been postponed at Victoria; and that this has not only had an impact on passenger safety, but also the flow of trains in and out of the station.
We are very concerned that if the current layout is struggling to handle the existing flow of passengers, it would probably be unable to cope with passengers turning back against the flow in the event of a fire or a security incident. This could be a recipe for disaster and we would like to see the risk assessment that has deemed the current layout safe.
The wider issue highlighted by this situation is the crisis of funding on our railways, which may have become too large an influence on planning and policy. The income from retail spaces is important in sustaining Network Rail, and may also form an important priority for the Department for Transport; in line with recommendations from the 2011 McNulty report.
We share this information today in the hope of enlightening passengers to the extremely complex causes of this ongoing rail crisis. It is not, and never has been enough to simply blame Southern Rail. It is the Department for Transport that should take responsibility for this rail crisis and we are convinced that they are still avoiding this responsibility in many crucial areas.
We already know (from a response to a question in the House of Lords on April 7th) that the Gibb report was handed to the Department for Transport on 30th December last year. In addition to this, sources have today confirmed that this report was ready for release on April 6th of this year. There is no excuse for the government to hold it back a day longer.
We are still at exactly the point we were a year ago with the Southern Rail crisis, and it is time for every responsible MP to stand up and demand the Gibb report’s immediate release – as a first step to removing this disastrous management contract from Govia Thameslink Railway.”
~ Comment from Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC and freelance journalist.
ABC is currently crowdfunding a court hearing for a judicial review of the Department for Transport. To donate, or get an update on their case; click here.