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Sardine Man reveals Barnsley as a rail overcrowding hotspot

2 April 2007
Transport 2000’s [1] Sardine Man will visit Barnsley on Wednesday, 4 April as part of a national tour of some of the most overcrowded train journeys in England and Wales to highlight overcrowding and the need for Government investment to increase capacity and relieve congestion on the rail network [2].

Sardine Man, who began his journey a week ago, is gathering evidence of rail overcrowding to send to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, in the run-up to this summer’s expected 30-year rail strategy. Sardine Man is keeping a blog while he travels and encouraging people to email their MP. [3]

The 07:31 from Barnsley to Leeds is a small 2-unit pacer train, not designed to carry large numbers of people, but it is running at 56.8% above capacity [4]. Some passengers end up paying £130.60 a month for the privilege of standing on a cramped train.

Julia Thomas, Transport 2000’s public transport campaigner, said: "It’s very easy to blame rail operators for overcrowding problems, but actually a lot of it is down to the Government’s rail policy – they have issued ‘no growth’ franchises for the past 10 years and they’ve been promoting a policy of fares hikes to get people to travel off-peak, but passengers really don’t have that much flexibility. In addition, the very short time periods covered by franchise agreements does not encourage big infrastructure investment by the rail operators."

Overcrowded journeys aren’t a problem just for passengers on the Barnsley to Leeds service. Sardine Man has found other crowded peak hour journeys in Yorkshire and Humber: Sheffield to Leeds running at 53% over seating capacity; Sheffield to Huddersfield running at 52% over seating capacity; Leeds to Sheffield running at 49% over seating capacity; and Huddersfield to Leeds running at 40% over seating capacity [5].

The need for action


  • Overcrowding has become the number one passenger concern, according to the Office of Rail Regulation [6]
  • The country has seen a 40% increase in passenger rail kilometres travelled since 1996 [7]
  • A Transport for London study showed that per mile travelled rail used 45% less CO2 than a private car [8]

Transport 2000 is calling on the Government to take action to ensure that an increase in capacity of the rail network is at the centre of this summer’s new 30-year rail strategy.[9]


Notes to Editors

[1] Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.

[2] Sardine Man will be outside Barnsley station to take questions and appear for photographs from 7:00 – 7:25 before travelling on the train.

[3] This email action is now closed.

[4] Data from South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, autumn 2006

[5] Data from South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, autumn 2006

[6] Office of Rail Regulation Website 2007

[7] Network Rail Initial Strategic Business Plan 2006

[8] Action Today to Protect Tomorrow: The Mayor’s Climate Change Action Plan, February 2007

[9] Sardine Man is part of Transport 2000’s Growing the Railways campaign, which is calling on the Government to:


  • Ensure all future rail franchises are more flexible and longer, enabling operators to improve timetables, work together to resolve overcrowding and invest in infrastructure
  • Immediately stop the policy of allowing passengers to be priced off the railway during peak times and instead work with businesses to promote more flexible working hours
  • Set maximum levels of overcrowding for the whole country, not just the South East and London
  • Set up systems for monitoring levels of overcrowding, including requiring train operators to provide overcrowding data on a regular basis
  • Reduce the amount of standing time considered 'acceptable' from 20 minutes (currently only in London and the South East) to a much more reasonable 15 minutes (nationwide) in the first instance and enforce it

Growing the Railways manifesto