Network Rail this week said it would ‘never put passengers at risk’ following claims by a passengers’ group about dangerous conditions at London Victoria.
The Association of British Commuters (ABC) has claimed that work to extend the area around platforms 15-19, which runs trains to and from Sussex, was possibly postponed to ‘save costs’.
But it said the delay, combined with busy rush hour periods, could be a ‘recipe for disaster’.
Network Rail responded, saying it would ‘never put passengers at risk’, and said the proposed work was to improve journeys, not safety.
The campaigners’ claims were released yesterday (June 20), with comments allegedly made by an anonymous Network Rail manager. The identity of the manager has not been disclosed to this newspaper by ABC and we have not had the opportunity to verify the comments.
The Network Rail manager was reported to have said: “There aren’t enough ticket gates for passengers using platforms 15-19.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
The source is said to have claimed a rebuild of the gate-line was scheduled to have been completed between 2014-19, but was instead postponed to 2019-24 to save cash.
He allegedly told the ABC that at busy times passengers were reported queuing for up to five minutes to get through the ticket barriers, and that there were concerns about the ability to evacuate passengers in an emergency.
There were particular concerns about platform 19, ABC claims, where the concourse narrows to six feet in places.
The Network Rail manager is said to have told campaigners: “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 into the crowd – it’s been chaos.”
The claims come after a series of incidents on the rail network caused crowding and congestion as commuters made their way home on Monday night (June 19).
Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC, said: “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 recipe for disaster and we would like to see the risk assessment that has deemed the current layout safe.”
In response to ABC’s claims, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail and our industry partners would never put passengers at risk. Britain’s railway is the safest in Europe and London Victoria station is safe for our passengers to use.
“More than £2m is being invested right now to improve passenger information and other aspects of the station to improve our customers’ journeys. In addition, schemes planned for the future of the station are designed to continue that improvement by freeing up more space for passengers on the concourse. These plans are motivated by a desire to improve journeys – not because of safety concerns.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “Performance on Southern has been consistently better since the new year and making sure passengers keep seeing a reliable and efficient service is a priority for the Government and the operator.
“We are investing £300m to improve performance and resilience on Southern’s route and nearly 60,000 passengers have now taken up a special package of compensation. Passengers on Southern are also the first in the country to benefit from compensation if their train is more than 15 minutes late.”