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Sardine Man to protest at 'sardine tin' trains

17 January 2007
In solidarity with fellow train passengers 'fished off' at being crammed on trains like sardines, Transport 2000’s [1] Sardine Man will be at Bristol Temple Meads train station on Friday 19 January, to make the case for expanded train service. [2]

'The situation in the South West is unacceptable,' says Julia Thomas, public transport campaigner at Transport 2000. ‘Overcrowding is a daily problem for thousands of people commuting into Salisbury, Portsmouth, Bath and Bristol.’

Rail use in the South West has grown by 42% in ten years and is forecast to continue rising, yet the Government has cut back services and First Great Western has made matters worse by not keeping up with maintenance of its trains. [3]

Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, supports Sardine Man. 'First Great Western simply isn’t meeting the demand for decent local rail services. We urgently need to examine what can be done to increase capacity on our railways and to ease the horrendous congestion on Bristol’s roads.'

Sardine Man is in Bristol for the launch of a manifesto for 'growing the railways' in the South West, supported by a coalition of supporters, which argues for several improvements:


  • Reinstating South West rail services, including: semi-fast services between London and Exeter; a minimum of three-carriages trains on routes between Bristol and South Wales; early morning and late evening services on commuter services around Bristol; and adequate capacity on peak hour Devon and Cornwall local services
  • New rolling stock to improve reliability and increase passenger capacity particularly on local routes where stock is very old
  • Longer trains on routes into city centres such as Gloucester
  • More frequent services, for example the Severn Beach line in Bristol needs a half-hourly service
  • In the long-term, passing loops on the Exeter to Salisbury line would help increase capacity and journey speed

Improvements are possible


The coalition’s manifesto puts forward several ways to increase capacity in the short term:


  • New rolling stock. First Great Western operates one of the country’s oldest passenger fleets. Data collected by ATOC shows that the staple of its local services – the two-carriage class 143 units – have the lowest reliability in England of any fleet class while the reliability of the stock used for its flagship high-speed services is the worst of any operator.
  • Increased capacity, including longer trains and higher frequencies, are needed to combat overcrowding and provide extra capacity for new passengers, particularly on routes into the region’s most dynamic growth centres such as Bristol.
  • More frequent services. A half-hourly service with more carriages and more competitive journey times is needed between Cardiff and Portsmouth. This service currently has terrible overcrowding, with people not being able to get on the trains yet it serves markets that cannot adequately be served by road. Overcrowding is also a daily problem on services along the Avon Valley from Westbury to Bath and Bristol; extra carriages or more frequent services could alleviate this.

Notes to editors


[1] Transport 2000 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] Photo opportunity, Friday 19 January. Sardine man will be posing outside Bristol Temple Meads station, Station Road entrance, at 9.30am on 19 January, with passengers and speakers. Photographers are welcome.

Manifesto launch, Friday 19 January. The manifesto for Growing the Railways in the South West will be launched at the Government Office for the South West, Temple Quay, Bristol, 10–11am. Business representatives, local authorities, rail user groups and MPs are expected to attend. Speakers offering the economic, environmental and social reasons for expanding the railway include:


  • Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East
  • Alex Gordon, Chair of South West RMT
  • Nigel Hutchings, Business West
  • Pat Hockey, Councillor for South Gloucestershire Council
  • Dan Okey, Transport Manager, Regional Development Agency

Journalists are invited to attend this launch.


Sardine Man’s appearance in Bristol marks the launch of a manifesto for improved train service in the South West. This regional launch is part of a national campaign. In October 2005, Transport 2000 launched Growing the Railways: A Manifesto to Move Us Forward, endorsed by 21 other organisations including the TUC, RMT, Scope, the Ramblers and Help the Aged. The national campaign calls on the Government to plan for a growing railway network as it prepares its new strategy on the future of rail, due in summer 2007.

[3] The figure of 42% rail growth in the South West over the past decade is from the Department for Transport’s regional transport statistics 2006.