Standing room only: The most overcrowded trains by city

Standing more than you're sitting? New figures show that about one in seven rail passengers were standing when arriving or departing from cities across England and Wales in autumn 2022, Kelly Foran reports

Words by Rachel Dixon, Multimedia Producer

Since the end of the pandemic the number of commuters piling on to trains has soared by 45%.

With platforms filling up again, the 1,571,298 people travelling to major cities in England and Wales every day are facing packed trains and crowded stations.

Overcrowding on the railways is creeping upwards in comparison to autumn 2021, according to statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) on Tuesday.

An average of 173,042 people a day - or nearly 14% of all passengers - were standing across both morning and afternoon peak times in autumn last year, according to data from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Here's which cities have the busiest train services.

The worst cities for overcrowding

As the capital and most populous city, London was also home to the most overcrowded trains in 2022.

The capital had nine times more passengers (988,053) arriving daily than the second highest city, which was Birmingham, with 108,880.

Seven cities across England and Wales recorded too many passengers for their train services’ capacity during peak times.

Peak travel includes the services arriving into cities between 7am to 9.59am and departing from cities from 4pm to 6:59pm.

Overcrowding means the number of people above the maximum capacity which could get on a train, including seated and standing.

Commuters at St Pancras International station. Credit: PA

The cities with the most overcrowded trains

Crowding is measured by comparing the number of people on the train, with the standard class capacity on the train, (this is the number of seats, plus an allowance for the amount of people with room to stand on the service.)

The numbers below tally how many more people were on the trains than 'should' be there, in addition to those already sitting or standing.

  • London: 8,085

  • Cardiff: 704

  • Nottingham: 471

  • Birmingham: 400

  • Leeds: 164

  • Manchester: 91

  • Bristol: 64

Commuters queueing for the escalators at London Liverpool Street station. Credit: PA

There was no overcrowding reported in all other English cities.

Nottingham has had the largest increase of passengers: Up 6.9 percentage points, compared to autumn 2021.

Many stations in London were more overcrowded than regional cities, those with the highest number of people were:

  • Vauxhall (for Waterloo): 1,932

  • Euston: 1,789

  • London Bridge: 1,526

  • Marylebone: 1,323

The only major London terminals with no overcrowding were London Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and Elephant and Castle (for Blackfriars).

Standing room only

Across cities England and Wales hundreds, if not thousands, of people have to stand on trains during peak times as the seats are full. This is almost one-in-five people in London.

Outside the capital, Nottingham had the second highest proportion of people not being able to get a seat, with 10.5% of passengers om peak services needing to stand.

Here is how many people could not get a seat on trains, in each city and the percentage of passengers:

  • Birmingham: 3,294, 4.6%

  • Brighton: 573, 4.4%

  • Bristol: 141, 0.9%

  • Cambridge: 67, 0.4%

  • Cardiff: 720, 3.5%

  • Leeds: 778, 2.3%

  • Leicester: 422, 5%

  • Liverpool: 636, 1.9%

  • London: 164,904, 17.7%

  • Manchester: 533, 1.2%

  • Newcastle: 0, 0.0%

  • Nottingham: 714, 10.5%

  • Reading: 107, 0.3%

  • Sheffield: 154, 1.4%

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