Double-decker trains: when might they come to the UK?

Designers are planning new double-decker trains for some of the UK's busiest railway lines

A Danish double-decker train in Nykobing Falster
A Danish double-decker train in Nykobing Falster
(Image credit: Leif Jorgensen)

Tired of being forced to stand on cramped trains? There could be light at the end of the tunnel: designers are working on plans for double-decker trains for some of the UK's busiest railway lines.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board, which is running a competition to find ways to ease overcrowding, said that some of the new concepts could be introduced between 2020 and 2022 to "address the challenges facing the UK rail industry".

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The double-decker trains have been proposed as an answer to overcrowding on some of the UK's busiest railway lines. It is hoped they could tackle the problem, particularly at peak times.

Data from the Department for Transport showed recently that more than one in five passengers on London commuter trains is forced to stand due to worsening levels of overcrowding.

Almost 250,000 commuters were being forced to stand on trains into major British cities each morning, with services running at 3.5 per cent over capacity. The busiest service in the country is the 4.22am service from Glasgow to Manchester airport, which runs at 186 per cent of capacity at its peak.

Why haven't we done this before?

Although double-decker trains are already used in other parts of Europe, Britain's low bridges and tunnels have ruled them out of being introduced here.

In the 1950s, double-decker trains were introduced between London and Kent but the experiment failed because of a series of problems, including poor ventilation on the upper deck, cramped conditions and technical difficulties.

How might it work this time?

Under new plans, train compartments would be lowered towards the tracks to create the height needed to accommodate two-deck carriages.

As Trevor Bradbury of the Rail Safety and Standards Board tells The Times: "When you walk on to a train nowadays, you step up on to the carriage. There is actually a lot of space that you can use beneath the vehicle, which is what this design does."

To create even more space in the new trains, aisles on both decks would be positioned to the side rather than along the middle.

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