The trains that seem to make commuters take all the strain

OUR journeys to and from the workplace make up a significant part of our working day. But commuters in Ely face a daily grind of overcrowded trains and a constant struggle for a seat. What, if anything, can be done to ease the situation for commuters payi

OUR journeys to and from the workplace make up a significant part of our working day.

But commuters in Ely face a daily grind of overcrowded trains and a constant struggle for a seat. What, if anything, can be done to ease the situation for commuters paying thousands of pounds each year to travel on over-crowded trains?

ELY'S growing commuter population is facing daily overcrowding on trains that is making a misery of their journeys.

And with the number of people using Ely Station expected to rise, there are fears that the situation for travellers to Cambridge and London can only get worse.

Passenger Focus, an umbrella organisation which lobbies the Government and local authorities on rail issues, has said action is needed for the huge volume of people that use the station; more than a million journeys take place at Ely every year.

"Something has to be done now," said Passenger Focus representative Guy Dangerfield.

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"This service is full now; there is no doubt that the capacity between Cambridge and Ely is nowhere near sufficient for the demand."

Ely has witnessed a boom in rail travel in recent years, due largely to the continued expansion of the city, but people moving to the area to commute to work are finding rail services are bursting at the seams as the four carriages that run to Cambridge seem sorely inadequate.

Liberal Democrat county and district councillor Nigel Bell said: "I commute to Cambridge myself and passenger numbers are increasing daily with severe overcrowding on many services.

Ten years ago the Deputy PM said the success of their transport policy would be judged by the number of cars on the road reducing; they have increased and Government policy on public transport has proved a monumental failure."

Train operators estimate that rail travel will increase by 66 per cent over the next 20 years, and although the Government has pledged that some 1000 new coaches will be rolled out by 2014, organisations like Passenger Focus believe that more carriages are needed to meet demand.

"Although solving the problem would be far from easy, if you were to look at the whole spectrum of problems that rail operators face, this is relatively low level," Mr Dangerfield said, adding that there would be issues like electrical upgrades.

Rail operators must make a business case to the Government about expansion of services, and often other "pinch points" in the network are prioritised.

Commuters to Cambridge pay more than £850 a year for use of the railway.

An industry insider, who asked not to be named, said he expected overcrowding on the Ely to Cambridge route to be mentioned when the Route Utilisation Strategy for the region, or RUS, is put out to public consultation later this month.

Put together by industry professionals, the RUS is designed to point out potential interventions rail operators can carry out to improve services, and it is hoped that the line will be mentioned.

When the strategy goes out to consultation, the onus will be on the public to point out trouble spots and the areas they think need extra investment; as soon as this is available on-line, the Ely Standard will make our readers aware.

Data on the public consultation is collected and put to ministers at the Department of Transport to make final decisions on the future of the railway across the country.

Yours say:

Liz Murfitt, 40, from Soham.

"I use the train regularly and it's always on time. I have to stand regularly and I would say I only get a seat three out of 10 times, so for the price of the ticket, it's not really value for money."

Tony McInally, 58, from Ely.

"I don't use the train too often but my wife goes from Ely to London twice a week. She often tells me that the trains are overcrowded and the conditions are very poor for the amount of money you pay. She usually gets a seat on the way to London, but tells me that coming back is an absolute nightmare. There should be more carriages really."

Amy Tufts, 24, from Ely.

"I travel from Ely to Cambridge four days a week. They are always on time and regular, and I don't mind paying the cost of the tickets because I get from A to B.

"I used to get a train at 8.25am and it was so crowded, I found it unbearable. I asked my boss if I could come in later and I go in at 9am now, which is not too bad."

Richard Procter, 34, from Ely.

"I go to Cambridge four days a week and to London one day. I think the service is generally okay, but it is dreadful coming back from King's Cross between 4pm and 7pm. You have to be on the train between 15 and 20 minutes before it leaves to get a seat. The school holidays can also be a nightmare for overcrowding.

"I usually get a seat from Ely to Cambridge, but there is often only one or two to spare. Don't even get me started on value for money."

Chris Jones, 51, from Ely.

"I travel to London once a week and I have to say the service is no different to the way it was in the WAGN days.

"I find it quite irritating that they have stopped doing on-board catering. The trains are overpriced and nearly always overcrowded. I usually get a seat going to London, but you have to be on the train 20 minutes before it leaves to get a seat on the way back.

"In fairness, I started using this root in 1971 and it has improved a lot since then. Back then the only London stop was Liverpool Street and the trains were a lot slower."

Jane Harris, from Barway.

"The train goes from Ely to Cambridge every 15 minutes which is great for me. I often have to stand up, but because the trains are so quick and regular, I can tolerate that.