An investigation is under way into the safety effects of overcrowding on trains.

Rail user groups are being asked to send people to focus groups where the problems of overcrowded can be discussed and identified.

The initiative comes from the London Transport Users Committee which for many years has been receiving frequent complaints about this problem. Complainants believe that the levels of crowding are potentially dangerous - a theme echoed in a recent report by the House of Commons Transport Committee.

The official position of the rail industry (supported by the Health & Safety Executive) is that there is no evidence that crowding is a contributory cause of accidents or a significant source of risk to rail users. There is therefore no case for introducing any limits on the number of people who can be carried, and in the case of trains no practicable means of doing so. Crowding is acknowledged as a serious issue of passenger discomfort, but not as a factor which merits regulatory control.

There is abundant anecdotal evidence to show that many passengers do not share this view, but until now the issue has not been systematically researched. In order to gain a better understanding of the parameters of the problem, the Rail Safety & Standards Board has commissioned the Health & Safety Laboratory to conduct a study. The terms of reference include health and the safety implications of crowding on trains and at stations, and includes the National Rail network and London Underground.

As part of this project, HSL is convening a number of focus groups at which it will be seeking to

IDENTIFY the range of hazards perceived by passengers to relate to crowding on the railways

EXPLORE which hazardous events are of most and least concern

EXPLORE how the hazards and priorities identified by passengers compare with those of "industry stakeholders" with whom a similar but separate workshop is being held.

The discussion is expected to last no more than 90 minutes. HSL will reimburse standard rail fares for those attending, if requested.

One of the focus groups will take place at LTUC's office at 6 Middle Street, near Barbican station, at 1600 on Tuesday 6 July.

Rail user group members who want to attend should contact Rachel O'Hara at HSL on 0114 289 2914 or at Rachel.O'

Rachel would also be pleased to hear if you would like to participate, but are not able to do so on this particular occasion, as it may be possible to arrange further groups at other times.

The Rail Passengers Council, of which LTUC is a constituent part, has been very much the fore in highlighting passenger concern at the extent and effects of crowding, and was instrumental in persuading RSSB that this issue merits serious inquiry.

LTUC is keen for there to be a high level of positive responses to this invitation.

Information from LTUC.