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The worst train journeys, revealed by Sardine Man

26 March 2007
Transport 2000's [1] Sardine Man begins a national tour today 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.

Sardine Man launched his tour at Eastleigh Train Depot at 10:30am [2]. Eastleigh Train Depot is a poignant reminder of how many empty train carriages sit idle, while overcrowding goes on unabated [3].

Transport 2000 has looked at all the data available for England and Wales and identified 10 train lines that most urgently need their capacity increased. Sardine Man will be travelling on some of these trains in the fortnight starting 27 March. He will be gathering evidence of rail overcrowding to send to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, in the run-up to this summers’s expected 30-year rail strategy.

The worst train journeys [4]

Journey... Running over capacity by...


  1. Durham to Newcastle (7:59 train): 88% (a)
  2. Cambridge to London Liverpool Street (8:02 train): 85% (b)
  3. Eccleston Park to Liverpool Lime Street (7:53 train): 85% (c)
  4. Cardiff to Maesteg (17:21 train): 78% (d)
  5. Humphrey Park to Manchester Oxford Road (8:14 train): 75% (c)
  6. Morpeth to Newcastle (8:00 train): 58% (a)
  7. Barnsley to Leeds (7:31 train): 57% (e)
  8. Sheffield to Leeds (7:14 train): 53% (e)
  9. Sutton to Luton (16:33 train): 50% (b)
  10. Northampton to Birmingham New Street (7:00 train): 45% (f)

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 any infrastructure investment by the rail operators."


The need for action


  • Overcrowding has become the number one passenger concern [5]
  • The country has seen a 40% increase in passenger rail kilometres travelled since 1996 [6]
  • The Government’s own figures forecast a 30% growth in rail passenger miles by 2016 [7]
  • Per passenger mile travelled, rail creates 45% less CO2 emissions 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] A photo opportunity will take place at Eastleigh Train Depot from 10:30 - 11am, on Campbell Road. Closest Railway station is Eastleigh. Sardine man and Transport 2000’s executive director, Stephen Joseph, will be available at Eastleigh to take questions and appear for photographs.

Sardine Man is travelling around the county over the next fortnight. These journeys were chosen to illustrate that rail overcrowding is a national problem, not confined to London and the South East, and that rail overcrowding does not just occur in the morning peak but evenings too.


  • Monday, 26 March | Eastleigh Depot, Southampton | 10:30 - 11 at Eastleigh car park on the Southampton Road just south of the bridge into Campbell Road
  • Tuesday, 27 March | Woking to London Waterloo | 7:10 – 7:40 at Woking Station, main entrance
  • Tuesday, 27 March | Cardiff to Bridgend | 16:45 – 17:15 at Cardiff Central, main entrance
  • Thursday, 29 March | Coventry to Birmingham | 7:35 – 7:55 at Coventry station, main entrance
  • Friday, 30 March | Eccleston Park to Liverpool Lime Street | 7:30 – 7:50at Eccleston Park station, main entrance
  • Monday, 2 April | London Waterloo to Weybridge, via Brentford | 17:30 – 17:50 at London Waterloo Station, top of steps at main train entrance on York Road
  • Tuesday, 3 April | Durham to Newcastle | 7:35 – 7:55 outside Durham station, main entrance
  • Wednesday, 4 April | Barnsley to Leeds | 7:05 – 7:25 outside Barnsley station, main entrance
  • Thursday, 5 April | Humphrey Park to Manchester Oxford Road | 7:40 – 8:10 outside Humphrey Park station, main entrance

[3] Much of this stock underutilisation occurs because of high leasing costs. According to a recent Office of Rail Regulation, much of this is the fault of how the Government sets up franchising agreements, rather than the rolling stock leasing companies themselves (Rail Magazine December 20 2006 – January 2 2007).


[4] The statistics are based on the most up-to-date data available, from a variety of sources:

(a) Survey conducted by Nexus, November 2006

(b) House of Commons Hansard written answers for 21 March 2006 (pt18)

(c) Network Rail North West Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation (page 32 & 33)

(d) Railfuture

(e) Survey conducted by South Yorkshire PTE, 2006

(f) Survey conducted by Centro, Winter 2006

[5] Network Rail’s Initial Strategic Business Plan 2006

[6] Office of Rail Regulation Website 2007

[7] Network Rail’s 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 Southeast) to a much more reasonable 15 minutes (nationwide) in the first instance – and enforce it