The Chiltern Railways service between Birmingham and London should be used as a model for the rest of the country to reduce overcrowding on trains, according to MPs.
Every new rail franchise should be based on the agreement between Chiltern Railways and the Government, which makes the rail company responsible for adding extra carriages, a Commons inquiry said.
By contrast, most rail companies currently have no obligation to tackle overcrowding - and fail to provide new carriages.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee calls for reforms today as it warned that the rail network was failing to meet targets to increase capacity on the network.
A Department for Transport strategy published in 2007 was supposed to provide an extra 38,000 places during the three-hour peak period on trains in Britain’s major cities.
But the rail companies were on course to provide only two thirds of the extra places required.
MPs said: “An underlying problem is the lack of incentives for the industry to supply extra capacity without additional taxpayer support.”
They added: “The Chiltern Trains franchise is an exception as it requires the operator to bear the costs of providing enough capacity, in terms of both carriages and platform lengths, to meet demand during peak hours without exceeding maximum loads.”
Chiltern runs services between Birmingham Snow Hill and London Marylebone.
The MPs said: “All but one of the 15 English rail franchises have no requirements for the operator to meet demand without excessive overcrowding, and so the taxpayer usually has to provide additional funding for extra carriages
“For future rail franchises the department should impose clear obligations on operators to avoid overcrowding, and to bear the costs of meeting that obligation themselves.”
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “The Department for Transport’s latest plans show that all the relevant targets for increasing the number of passenger places on trains during the morning peak by 2014 will be missed. This committee is concerned that, for commuters, the already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable.”
Rail companies expected the taxpayer to bail them out when they needed to increase capacity, she said - but they needed to change their attitude.
“At present there is no incentive for the rail industry to supply extra capacity without additional public subsidy. The department should for future franchises require operators to take measures themselves to avoid overcrowding and to meet the costs of doing so.”