A "cost-cutting" rail timetable has been blamed by passengers for "dangerous" chaos at London Bridge.
Extraordinary pictures show the concourse at the central London station crammed with thousands of passengers during the evening rush hour on Wednesday.
People described being "trapped" in a "crush" amid a "total lack of information", with reports of fights breaking out and panic attacks.
It saw scores of cancellations, delays and line closures, with furious Londoners taking to social media over the "unsafe" stampede at around 5.30pm, with rail chiefs blaming a trespassing incident.
But commuters have now lashed out at the rail firm Southeastern, saying overcrowding is now a daily occurrence since it scrapped three key direct services with a new timetable last month.
@Se_Railway Absolute disgrace. Zero communication and herding people like cattle. Third world country. #southeastern #LondonBridge pic.twitter.com/F6HkhS28eq— Ollie Waite (@ollie_waite) January 25, 2023
'A disaster will happen'
Direct trains on the line between Hayes and London Cannon Street, and from London Charing Cross to both Woolwich and Maidstone East, have all been axed to create "more reliable" services and save £10 million, meaning people for these destinations must now change at London Bridge.
Lewis Richards, 37, an IT manager from Catford, told The Telegraph: "In all honesty, it was scary last night, I was at the top of the escalator with nowhere else to go and people were bumping into the back of me.
"Southeastern has basically reduced services and cut routes, so more people were forced to go to London Bridge. You've got thousands more people turning up at London Bridge to catch their train. It's been utter carnage.
"All to save money, but it's made service worse. It's dangerous, a disaster will happen. It's not if, it's when."
Chris Meekings, 48, an insurance broker from Sidcup, said: "The days I go into London, there have been delays and problems. I get on at Sidcup and it’s standing-room only. It's much worse since the timetable change.
"Last night was terrible, we were all kettled in at one point, platforms dangerously packed, only a matter of time until a fatality occurs."
the state of london bridge station this evening, I love commuting x pic.twitter.com/jDQYljVQ7X— khai khai (@khaiyamckenzie) January 25, 2023
'Sudden tidal surge'
Suzanne Whitlock, from London, told The Telegraph that London Bridge "felt like a sudden tidal surge".
"People were crammed in a lift trying to get up, including an elderly gentleman," she said. "A staff member seemed to be finding it quite amusing".
"Travel since the timetable changes has been horrendous. Constant delays, cancellations, overcrowding, claustrophobic, getting stuck on packed trains for long periods with no explanation and what used to take an hour to take home now takes two," she said.
Network Rail and Southeastern launched a safety review on Thursday, with a Southeastern source saying the talks would "look into how we can better undertake crowd control and customer care".
You need to reinstate the timetable as it was pre December 11th. It’s chaos at London Bridge. You used to have people dispersed between multiple stations, now all those people have to get trains at London Bridge. It’s ridiculous and dangerous pic.twitter.com/cp19K0BdVA— Jayne (@JayneStringer) January 26, 2023
Rail bosses under fire
Louie French, the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, said she was "very concerned by the overcrowding" and partly blamed the timetable, adding: "The ongoing misery & disruption for commuters cannot continue."
A spokesman for Southeastern blamed "an earlier trespasser on the line at Hither Green...which had an impact on services at London Bridge" between 5.30pm and 6.45pm and apologised to customers but denied the timetable change was to blame.
. @Se_Railway 100s of passengers in a crush at London Bridge due to the changes you introduced - with no consultation - in December. It's not just doubled commutes, it's DANGEROUS. Every night is like this, trapped on packed trains, escalators and platforms. DO SOMETHING. pic.twitter.com/5mUcS3fDY7— Suzanne Whitlock (@Whitters_s) January 25, 2023
Southeastern said its timetable, which was introduced on December 11 without any consultation but has only just taken effect because of strikes, is in response to "substantial changes in customer demand for rail travel", with people commuting only 1.8 days per week in a recent survey.
It comes after similar scenes of mass crowds at London Euston station in recent months thanks to timetable changes by Avanti West Coast.