December 1, 2009 / 10:23 AM / in 8 years

London commuters "psyche up" for the underground

<p>A London underground sign is pictured below Big Ben, London, September 3, 2007. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s underground train system suffers from so much overcrowding that passengers have to “psyche” themselves up to cope with the stress of using it, according to a report on Tuesday.

A survey by the London Assembly’s Transport Committee found that 80 percent of travelers endured overcrowding which caused discomfort, while more than half were unable to board the first train at a station because it was packed.

The situation was so bad that “Tube” commuters had to prepare mentally themselves for the their journey in order to cope, researchers found.

Their methods included “psyching oneself up for the ‘struggle to clamber on board,'” a “dog-eat dog or survival of the fittest attitude” or suspending usual behavior such as going for a seat even if a pregnant woman or someone with a baby wanted it.

“The overwhelming majority perceived the experience of overcrowding as a highly unpleasant and abnormal situation,” said the “Too close for comfort” report.

“That said, it was apparent that regular commuters and hardened travelers had become resigned to overcrowding on the Tube and accepted it as an uncomfortable aspect of their regular journey.”

The survey found that in morning peak hours, some trains carried more than four people per square meter.

The busiest section was between Bethnal Green in east London and Liverpool Street on the Central Line between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. with an average of almost 60,000 passengers.

Overcrowding around King’s Cross station and between Clapham and Kennington in southwest London was almost as bad.

The report said London Underground had to address the issue and also perform better when it carried out upgrade or maintenance works, saying cities such as Madrid suffered far less disruption.

“London Underground cannot be complacent about finding ways to make the situation more bearable,” the committee’s chairman Caroline Pidgeon said.

“There is an assumption that seemingly endless line closures are inevitable but, as our report and the evidence from Madrid shows, this is simply not the case.”

Transport for London (TfL) said it was spending billions of pounds to improve capacity on the network by 30 percent.

“This will mean more trains, able to carry more passengers, with faster journeys and larger stations,” a TfL spokesman said.

“Even today, the improvement in reliability means that more people are carried on the Tube compared with three years ago with no additional crowding caused.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir

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