This piece was published in The Guardian in May 2016.
There are only two types of people who travel in and out of London by train every day: the ones who dislike it, and those who hate it with a passion. The passengers flocking to Fenchurch Street station every evening fall largely into the latter category, having come to loathe their long journey home to Essex. A new timetable introduced before Christmas means fewer carriages and more stops in the capital, making the c2c rush hour trains some of the most crowded in the country.
The south Essex line became notorious back in January when one commuter reportedly wet himself because there was no way of getting to the toilet through a crushed aisle. “In the end he just couldn’t hold it,” said a despairing fellow passenger.
James Savill is one of the angry travellers who finds he often has to stand all the way home – almost 50 minutes to the town of Stanford-le-Hope. The 37-year-old insurance executive now uses @c2c_customers to tweet photos of jam-packed carriages, and helped stage a protest at Fenchurch Street earlier this year.
“Some nights people are swearing at each other as they’re jostling to get on,” says Savill. “They’re shouting at each other: ‘Move down the train!’ but there’s literally no more space. I’ve seen an old woman crying because she just couldn’t get on at West Ham. There have been instances of staff actually pushing people on like it’s India or Japan, or somewhere like that.”