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Double the number of passengers than train seats in Wigan

One of the overcrowded trains
One of the overcrowded trains

Wigan commuters travelling to Manchester were subjected to the most overcrowded rail conditions in England and Wales last year, new figures have revealed.

Data released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that in autumn last year, there were twice as many passengers as seats on the Glasgow to Manchester Airport train, which got into the city centre at 8.24am.

Some 403 people squeezed into four carriages containing just 191 seats on the 4.22am service from Glasgow Central to the airport.

This was a load factor of 211 per cent - higher than any other service in 2017.

The DfT said crowding on the service is “likely to have reduced” since May as it is no longer able to call at Wigan because of new timetables.

Passengers in the North have suffered major disruption on a number of Northern and TransPennine Express routes since train schedules were changed.

A service from Manchester Airport to Edinburgh was the second most overcrowded after calling at Manchester Oxford Road at 4.19pm. This service has also been altered since the new timetables were introduced.

Just 191 seats were provided for the 387 passengers on the train at the time the figures were collated.

The rest of the DfT’s top 10 overcrowded list consisted of London commuter trains.

This included services such as the 7.16am service from East Grinstead to London Bridge (Southern), the 7.32am from Woking to London Waterloo (South Western Railway) and the 6.57am Brighton to Bedford (Thameslink).

The figures relate to standard class passengers on weekday services in autumn last year.

Despite the overcrowding, the Department for Transport has revealed that passenger numbers have fallen over the past couple of years.

In 2017 there were 33,600 on average arriving at Manchester each morning, an increase of 1.7 per cent, however the number of passengers using the station overall has dropped by 3.8 per cent.

Responding to the publication of the latest figures for rail passenger numbers and overcrowding, Steve Chambers from Campaign for Better Transport, said: “These figures show a network that is over capacity and, despite a slight fall in passenger numbers, overcrowding has increased outside of London.

“We desperately need to expand the network and we want to see additional lines and stations opened to support the growth of the railways, as well as more carriages on existing trains

“Delayed electrification projects must be completed to get people out of smaller diesel trains, especially in the north of England.

“The slight decline in rail journeys shown here could in part be due to the ticketing system failing to keep pace with modern working patterns.

“We hear from hundreds of people who work part-time and have stopped using the train due to the lack of flexible tickets.”

The news of overcrowded conditions from Wigan North Western to Manchester Oxford Road may not come as a shock to long-term commuters as the service has been listed as one of the most overcrowded trains for the past three years.

Passengers have called on Transpennine Express to add more carriages but their calls have fallen on deaf ears.

Figures from the Department for Transport showed that in autumn 2015, the Glasgow to Manchester line was listed as the second most crowded train in the country - holding 215 per cent (219 passengers) more than the capacity.

The same service was also listed as the most crowded in the UK in spring 2016.

A statement accompanying the DfT report in the same quarter revealed that the busiest point of the service was again from Wigan North Western and Manchester Oxford Road.

Wigan commuters have faced months of chaos thanks to the botched introduction of new timetables and striking over plans to axe train guards.

In June, Lisa Nandy MP revealed that ministers and officials were warned in 2016 about the “impending chaos” expected to engulf Northern rail, after she was sent a series of leaked emails.

Ms Nandy said officials had also described key northern routes as “valueless” in the emails which also highlighted “handling strategies” for MPs.