London, June 26 : Farm animals in Britain are being given priority over commuters in so far as railway transportation in the country is concerned. Statistics provided by the Department for Transport to The Telegraph show that passengers can be packed into carriages in conditions that would be regarded as unacceptable for goats, chickens, calves and sheep.
Some of the most crowded trains are already carrying 50 per cent more passengers than they were designed to and with demand for rail travel soaring, commuters' plight is set to get worse.
On some crowded trains passengers have even found themselves having to stand in toilets. It has led to complaints that they are being forced to travel "cattle class".
Now these allegations have been confirmed by figures released in a Commons written reply.
According to the Government's rail White Paper, published in July, commuters should be allocated 0.45 square metres of space - whether they are seated or standing. With the average human being weighing 73.5 kg this is equivalent to allocating 0.0062 square metres per kg.
This is less than half the space allocated under European Union regulations for transporting farm animals to a chicken weighing up to 1.6 kg, who the EU guarantee 0.02 square metres per kg.
Goats, Brussels insists, should get at least 0.0086 square metres and calves 0.008.
"It is appalling that the Government's own guidance forces commuters into levels of overcrowding which would be illegal for chickens, goats and cattle under EU law," said Theresa Villiers, the Conservative Party's transport spokesman.
Passenger Focus, the consumer watchdog, said that finding a seat was a daily struggle for commuters.
" We need substantial long-term investment as soon as possible to provide longer and more frequent trains to help reduce crowding," it said.
The Department for Transport defended its record.
"We acknowledge that overcrowding can be an issue on certain parts of the rail network. The answer to overcrowding is to invest properly in extra capacity in the form of more carriages and modern infrastructure and that is exactly what we have promised to do," a spokesman said.
"Last year, we committed 10 billion pounds over the next five years which will pay for the single biggest increase in capacity for a generation. This will deliver 1,300 new carriages so that longer trains run on the busiest parts of the network," he added.