Which are the most crowded carriages in a train? Typically, the middle ones.

PTV yesterday released the results of the October 2012 train load surveys. These are primarily to measure how crowded trains are, against the 798 benchmark (which is not a capacity figure).

Overall most lines are improving or about the same, the exception being the Dandenong and Werribee lines, both of which are becoming more crowded.

One of the side-effects of counting all the people on a train is they have published figures on which carriages are, on average, carrying the most people. It’s probably no surprise that the most crowded are the carriages near the middle.

PTV average carriage loads, by percentage of total train load

The graph shows what percentage of the load is in each carriage, on average across the whole network for AM and PM peak.

In the AM peak it’s the 2nd and 3rd carriages; in the PM peak it’s the 3rd and 4th. In both, on average the last carriage is the least crowded.

Obviously this will vary line-by-line, and even service-by-service. All the figures are on the PTV web site.

I suspect a lot of people aim for a carriage close to the exit at their destination, to minimise queuing on the way out, though you might also end up in the carriage close to the station entrance at the start of your trip if you have to run for the train.

For instance PM peak Sandringham trains have the most crowded rear carriage, with 17.6% on average — this might be partly because passengers for Elsternwick want a quick exit, but a big factor would be large numbers of people arriving at Flinders Street Station via Degraves Street and Elizabeth Streets, and boarding the train in the dungeon at platforms 12 and 13, where the rear carriage is the closest.

Meanwhile on the Alamein line, almost half the passengers (48.8%) are in the middle two carriages in PM peak.

PS. There are proposals overseas to add sensors inside carriages that can detect how crowded each carriage is, and transmit that information to screens at stations. I don’t think this has actually been implemented anywhere yet.

Many systems around the world have indicators of how many carriages are in approaching trains. This arguably isn’t an issue in Melbourne anymore — unlike the bad old days when they skimped and ran short trains some of the time, virtually all trains now run as 6 cars.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

10 replies on “Which are the most crowded carriages in a train? Typically, the middle ones.”

thanks for providing this info. Yes, people do what is the easiest for themselves and the most convenient. In the morning peak on Sandy trains, passengers to Flinder St board at the front so they don’t have to walk the length of Platform 12/13 at journey’s end. It doesn’t matter is they want to exit at Degraves, Eliz St or main exit, they still have to walk to the same point near the front of the train.

Sydney had indicators at the CBD stations back in the 70’s, showing whether approaching trains were 4 or 8 cars. Then they introduced 6 car trains.

These indicators didn’t make it to the suburbs until a couple of years ago, but 4 and 6 car trains have now vanished in Sydney anyhow ( Newcastle still has some ).

A greater spread of station entrances/exits would help.

Easier passage between the carriages makes it easier and thus more likely people will move to a less crowded part of the train when the train is not so packed as to make it really hard. It also makes it easier to get on a train near entrance at the start of the trip and then move along the train to near the exit for getting off. Only when changing between halves of the train is is necessary to get out of the train.

If three-carriage trains are seldom run anymore, shouldn’t future orders be for continuous six-carriage trains? I’d imagine there’s a lot of redundant and expensive equipment in those middle two cabs. Plus windscreens that need cleaning.

@Jason – nice idea, but not yet practical. The workshops at Epping and Bayswater, designed to replace the old Jolimont Workshops, only have facilities for maintaining three-car trains; there are also a very small number of sidings around the network only long enough for 3 or 9 carriages (Lilydale is the only one I can think of off the top of my head; it’s actually about 11.5 carriages long).

Epping cannot be expanded, there simply isn’t room on the current site. However, there are so many useful sidings in the area that it would be a serious waste of resources to demolish the lot. So it could either be converted to stabling without maintenance facilities (by shifting the latter elsewhere), or perhaps a new line could be built curving west from the current south end of the sidings across High St (the road would have to be dropped, not enough room to put the tracks under or over), cutting through the go-kart land and then building a new facility just south of the shopping centre. I’m not sure how well this would tie in with the proposed Aurora extension. However, the land above the maintenance centre could be sold for residential or commercial use. There’s also the problem that any train running between Melbourne and the maintenance centre would have to terminate in the existing sidings, then reverse. On the assumption that Lalor station is dropped as part of a grade separation project (and/or merging with Thomastown), a curved line could be built under High Street heading northwest to meet up with the depot, giving a triangle junction as well as a spur for use in the Aurora route, in the same way that the Nowergup depot on the Joondalup line in Perth had a single track built for access in such a way that it will now form part of the duplicated line to Butler.

As for Bayswater – the ideal would be abolition of the yards in conjunction with grade separation of both level crossings and dropping the station. The yard could be moved to either Lilydale or Coldstream (or possibly even upgrading Ringwood?), with a new facility built on what is already railway-owned land, of the same quality as the new yard at Craigieburn.

I would also note that from my observation, many people who know that the first and last carriage will be less crowded will aim to get to the front or end of the train, making the first and last door of the train more crowded than the other one or two doors of their respective carriages.

“but 4 and 6 car trains have now vanished in Sydney anyhow ( Newcastle still has some ).”

Blue mountains line also runs 4 and 6 car sets, mainly of a weekend when there are less services and the 4 car sets get to standing room only. The trouble is that the indicator boards often say ‘4 cars’ on the weekend but they appear to randomly have 6 or 8 cars, thus nobody pays attention to it.

I have never been able to work out why, when there are fewer serviecs running, they tend to lean towards 4 car sets, which all end up at more than 100% capacity.

They are actually short of rolling stock for those Blue Mountains trains, so running shorter trains may mean more opportunities for maintenance. It also saves some electricity dragging almost empty trains up and down the mountains. Shorter trains improves the visibility for the guard at curved platforms.

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