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The most overcrowded trains in the country
By BBC South Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton

The South faces unprecedented congestion with packed roads, crammed air ways and an infrastructure that's on the verge of grinding to a halt. Yet whenever extra capacity is found - such as a new bypass at Newbury or an extra airport terminal at Gatwick - new travellers absorb any spare space and the congestion returns.

Now it is the turn of rail. With safety at the top of the agenda after a spate of accidents that began with Clapham, and Purley and culminated in the Southall and the Ladbroke Grove disasters, rail companies are having to pay renewed attention to protecting passengers.

At the same time they must cope with an annual increase of 10% in the numbers of people on the South's trains.

Train drivers speak out

Drivers, guards and signalmen have spoken frankly to BBC South about the daily strains of keeping the system working. For instance, two months after the Paddington crash, passengers from the South are deliberately driven along a line operating at more than its maximum "safe" capacity.

A regular driver on the route said: "Near enough all the time I get yellow signals… I've rarely ever been through on green."

The signalling manager for the area admits the timetable is impossible to meet: "At the moment we're running at 127% capacity." Across the rest of Europe standard practice is to run at 75% capacity.

And new trains won't help. The first tilting trains in the country will operate from Brighton and Bournemouth by Virgin. Yet they are only as quick as the train in front. Unless Railtrack can increase the number of trains a line can take, then there will be little or no improvement.

Standing in the aisles

To find more investment the Strategic Rail Authority is renegotiating many of the South's franchises. The railway map of the South is being re-drawn behind closed doors. Household-name franchises will disappear; new ones will be created. .

What appears obvious is this fundamental problem: however many millions - or billions - are spent expanding our railways, the investment will just attract new passengers without solving the problem of overcrowding.

Five years from now, we'll still be standing in the aisles - all the way to work.

Track Record editions of BBC South's Southern Eye and First Sight on BBC Two on Thursday at 1930 will invite drivers, signalmen and guards to tell their side of the story. There will also be special reports on South Today throughout the week, and items and discussions on Radio Solent and SCR.