Less train overcrowding, but it comes at a cost: your seat

Melbourne's trains are less overcrowded, but it comes at a cost: your seat.

Metro's move to rip out seats from train carriages to accommodate exploding patronage numbers has eased overcrowding on peak services across the network, PTV data reveals.

The seating reconfiguration has increased passenger capacity from 798 to 900, resulting in a dramatic drop in passenger load breaches on the Frankston, Upfield, Sandringham, Werribee and Craigieburn lines.

Nearly 7 per cent of passengers were squashed in overcrowded trains on the Sunbury Line this year in the morning peak, down from nearly 47 per cent last year.

On the Craigieburn Line - the most overcrowded line this year - nearly 36 per cent of passengers travelled in trains that were more than 100 per cent full. But this was down from 57 per cent in 2016.

Overcrowding on the Frankson line dropped from 17 per cent to zero this year.

The removal of train seats comes as Melburnians brace for a shoulder-to-shoulder, Tokyo-style commute on a new fleet of 65 high-capacity trains to be rolled out from mid-2019.

Technical documents show the trains are designed to seat 40 per cent of passengers, but will "enable a future reduction of seating in the range down to 30 per cent of the original gross train capacity".

Removing seating to deal with overcrowding increases capacity, but it provides only temporary reprieve, said Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen.

The free tram zone had triggered huge patronage growth, but removing seating had caused a serious lack of seating on most trams, he said.

The B-class trams were modified to reduce 52 seats to 40 seats, but this did not change the tram's maximum capacity of 120 passengers in the CBD.

"The B-class [Apollo] trams have very little seating," Mr Bowen said. "If you need a seat, it's often very hard to find one.

"The question will be what's the next step? As patronage keeps growing, they can't keep taking out more seats ... they really need to start running more services."

Despite Metro's efforts, some lines on the network are showing signs of overcrowding.

The South Morang line - the route servicing the country's fastest growing suburb - had a spike in overcrowding this year, jumping from 26 per cent to 33 per cent of passengers crammed inside full trains.

The service is to face high patronage growth, and no peak services will be added, despite an extension of the line to Mernda.

The annual passenger count is done in May every year by independent surveyors, but it appears this will be the last year passengers are counted manually.

Myki transactions or "automatic passenger counters" are to provide data on loads from "all year round on any given day, and at any location in the network" on trains, trams and buses from next year, the tram passenger load survey stated.

A spokesman for Public Transport minister Jacinta Allan said peak services were added to the Craigieburn, Sunbury and Werribee lines in August, creating space for 27,000 extra passengers.

"We're building the Metro Tunnel and manufacturing bigger, better trains to boost capacity and move more people on our busiest train lines," she said.

Opposition public transport spokesman David Davis said: "The tearing out of seats to cut train overcrowding is clearly not a long-term solution to the surge in Melbourne's population and the usage increase and there is no question it smashes passenger comfort."

Greens transport spokeswoman Samantha Dunn said high-capacity signalling was needed to deal with long-term population growth.

"Until we have a network-wide approach, our trains, our system will be hamstrung by the signalling."

This story Less train overcrowding, but it comes at a cost: your seat first appeared on The Age.