How much luggage can you take on the train? Most passengers have no idea!
The National Rail Conditions of Travel sets out passengers’ rights and responsibilities when traveling on rail services provided by franchised train companies. The vast majority of people who purchase rail tickets are unaware of these conditions. Rail tickets are endorsed subject to National Rail Conditions of Travel.
In this particular blog I want to focus on one element of these conditions namely the carriage of luggage. If traveling by aeroplane there are very strict conditions about the size and amounts of luggage. If passengers don’t meet the specifications, they can be penalised. Many people are completely unaware that the railways also have luggage limitations.
Limitations of luggage on trains
Until October 2016, passengers could travel with two items of luggage. They could take a third item if it could be held on a lap. Passengers could be charged for further items but this did not often happen.
From October 2016, the conditions were simplified. Passengers can take up to three items of luggage unless it may cause injury, inconvenience or a nuisance. Train Companies can refuse to accept luggage on trains if there is insufficient room for it or it obstructs doorways gangways or corridors.
A train company can also refuse to carry luggage if loading or unloading it may cause delay to trains. Passenger and Train Operating Companies (TOC’s) are rightly passionate about punctuality. However, many people have experienced situations where fellow passengers have hindered them getting on or off a train due to excessive amounts or sizes of luggage and may even have delayed the train as a result.
The effect of luggage on trains’ operation
Dwell times of trains stopping at stations have to be short otherwise journeys become unnecessarily lengthened. Delayed train departures can be attributed to people handling luggage that is outside the limits set by the National Rail Conditions of Travel. These delays can have a knock on effect over the remainder of the journey. The train might miss its time at a junction and have to wait for an on time service. It may be late for its platform slot at a busy station. Thus the delay increases as the journey continues.
Train companies take passenger boarding very seriously and provide proactive assistance. Platform staff are trained to identify passengers that might need help. This is one of the many reasons why TOCs (Train Operating Companies) have assisted travel schemes. Under these schemes members of staff will be aware in advance of those passengers needing help themselves or with their luggage.
On board announcements notify passengers of station stops in advance of the trains arrival. One of the primary reasons for announcements is to manage station dwell times and reduce delays. Passengers respond by packing away their belongings and getting their luggage and themselves ready for alighting.
Railway Carriage Design
There is sometimes criticism that TOCs don’t provide enough luggage space on trains. Carriage design balances the need for seats and areas for luggage. Passengers want to get a seat on the train and be able to store their bags. Understandingly, passengers have security concerns about their luggage. Many don’t like putting their belongings in luggage racks at the end of the passenger compartments. Over the years, additional racks have been provided in the centre of the seating area on certain carriages but this is at the expense of seats. There is obviously space for smaller items of luggage in overhead racks. Many passengers forget that there is also room for luggage between back to back seating. Carriages have many uses – for commuting, holiday makers and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) each with different luggage requirements.
For example, on Great Western Railway, high-speed train carriage sets are divided into high and low density types. High density caters for commuters eg Bristol to Paddington services and seats have been provided rather than luggage space. Commuter sets have more airline style of seating meaning less luggage space. There are fewer ‘back to back’ seats where luggage can be stored.
On occasions, a high density set might have to cover for a longer distance service eg to the West of England. There may be more luggage than available space. However when this set swap does occur and/or where a service is predicted to be very busy, Great Western Railway have contingency plans. One solution is putting passenger luggage into the power cars for those travelling to the terminating station. They can’t just add another carriage! (Find out why here!)
The amount of luggage carried by each passenger is a key consideration of TOC’s. But it is also a joint responsibility:- passengers should adhere to the requirements of the National Rail Conditions of Travel whilst train companies continue to be proactive in their management of luggage.
Have you witnessed someone with excessive or unusual luggage on a train particularly where this has resulted in a delayed departure or inconvenience to fellow passengers?