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Sardine Man reveals Manchester as a rail overcrowding hotspot

3 April 2007
Transport 2000’s [1] Sardine Man will visit Manchester on Thursday 5 April, marking the end of his national tour of some of the most overcrowded train journeys in England and Wales [2]. The tour aims to highlight rail overcrowding and the need for Government investment to increase capacity and relieve congestion on the rail network.

Sardine Man, who began his journey 10 days 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 8:14 from Humphrey Park to Manchester Oxford Road is running at 74.5% over capacity, according to Network Rail [4], making it one of the busiest train journeys in the country. Sardine Man’s research has shown that Manchester is suffering from rail overcrowding on a large scale, but the Government is leaving it up to the rail operators to solve the problem.

Julia Thomas, Transport 2000’s public transport campaigner, said: 2It’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 do not encourage big infrastructure investment by the rail operators."

Overcrowded journeys aren’t a problem just for passengers on the Humphrey Park to Manchester Oxford Road route, there are other peak morning trains too. Not far behind the Humphrey Park service is the Todmorden to Manchester Victoria service, which is running at 50% above capacity; the Stalybridge line to Manchester Victoria is running at 45% over capacity; Ryder Brow to Manchester Piccadilly and Oldham to Manchester Victoria are both running at 35% above 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 Humphrey Park station to take questions and appear for photographs from 7:45 – 8:10, before travelling on the train.

[3] This email action is now closed.

[4] Network Rails Route Utilisation Strategy for the North West, draft for consultation, page 32. This data is based on Train operator counts and demand model data from 2005 and is the most recent data available.

[5] Network Rails Route Utilisation Strategy for the North West, draft for consultation, page 32. This data is based on Train operator counts and demand model data from 2005 and is the most recent data available.

[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

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