Move down the carriage! Trains to get even busier

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The Independent Online

Anyone who has braved the crush of the evening train home might not believe that overcrowding on Britain's railways could be getting any worse. But it is.

Figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show that, in 2010, overcrowding on morning and afternoon rush-hour trains went up by 0.8 per cent; not a lot, but enough to deprive you of your seat.

On average, railways across the country are running at 3 per cent over capacity during peak times, the new study shows. Londoners and commuters in the South-east are bearing the brunt of overcrowding, with the morning train to Paddington station being the hardest in the country to find a seat on, with services running at 18.5 per cent over capacity.

Outside of London, Leeds is the nation's train-crush capital. As many as 14 per cent of passengers have to stand on morning trains into the city, and another 12.1 per cent miss out on a seat on the way out in the evening.

David Sidebottom, the director of rail-customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "While we welcome that more people are taking the train, the issue is: where they are all going to sit? Train companies' franchise agreements state that services need to be planned so that passengers ought not to stand for more than 20 minutes. The industry needs to address this."

In London and the South-east, the morning train is the most crowded, while in regional cities it is the afternoon peak that sees the most overcrowding. Birmingham had the highest passenger demand, with 36,100 passengers departing from the city during the afternoon peak on a typical weekday in autumn 2010, closely followed by Manchester at 29,400 departures, and Leeds with 23,800. The rail minister Theresa Villiers said the figures justified the government's costly plans to improve Britain's railway, which include the construction a new high-speed rail network (HSR).