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Rail overcrowding 'getting worse'

Rush-hour overcrowding on London and south-east England rail routes is worsening.

Morning rush-hour overcrowding is at its worst on services into London's Paddington station, the statistics from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) revealed.

Outside London, Leeds has the highest number of standard-class passengers forced to stand, with 14% standing on arrival at the city centre in the morning peak and 12.1% standing on departing trains in the afternoon peak.

The ORR figures related to morning and afternoon peaks on London and south-east rail services in autumn 2010.

The statistics showed that overall crowding, as measured by the percentage of passengers in excess of capacity, was 3%.

This was a return to the level recorded in 2008 following the decrease to 2.2% in 2009.

Services into Paddington in the morning peak had a crowding figure as high as 18.5% while the First Great Western train company had the highest levels of crowding (16.6%) across the morning and evening peak.

The figures also revealed that in London and the south east, trains were more crowded in the morning peak (with a crowding figure of 4.0%) than in the afternoon (1.9%).

But in major regional cities on a typical autumn 2010 weekday, trains were generally more crowded in the afternoon peak than in the morning.

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. This was followed by Manchester (29,400 departures) and Leeds (23,800).

David Sidebottom, director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Getting a seat is a daily struggle for some passengers as overcrowding on the railways continues to be a big problem.

"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 through increasing capacity by more trains and carriages, upgrading railway infrastructure such as new signal technology, track work, longer station platforms and new lines."