Crowding on trains

An explanation of our role in regulating health and safety aspects of passenger crowding, and how train operator crowding levels are monitored and managed.

Crowding can be inconvenient, uncomfortable and lead to unpleasant travelling conditions, especially when passengers must stand very close together for prolonged periods. Crowding can also sometimes make passengers feel unsafe.

Our role in ensuring train operating companies manage crowding

As the health and safety authority for Britain's railways, we are responsible for ensuring railway companies protect passengers from any health and safety risks caused by crowded trains and infrastructure.

Franchised commuter train operators are required to carry out passenger counts as part of their franchise contracts to demonstrate that adequate capacity is being provided.

Where an operator of a London commuter train service exceeds levels of train crowding specified in the franchise contract, DfT can require the operator to produce an action plan for providing more capacity and alleviating overcrowding.

There is no legal limit on the number of passengers that can travel in any given train coach as trains differ from other modes of transport – most notably buses and aeroplanes -  because of the heavy engineering design involved. This permits trains to operate effectively and safely even when fully loaded to maximum capacity.

But despite being uncomfortable, and at times making passengers feel unsafe, there is no conclusive evidence linking crowding on trains with anything other than low level health and safety risks to individual passengers.  However, we continue to review the available evidence of links between overcrowded trains and ill-health effects on passengers.

Who has responsibility for monitoring levels of crowding?

The Department for Transport (DfT) monitors the levels of crowding at key stations and on the top 10 most crowded train services. They encourage train operating companies to plan their timetables to accommodate the passengers expected throughout the morning and evening peak periods. Separate regimes penalise operators for late trains or for services that do not meet the agreed timetable.

DfT's contact details
Public enquiries
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR
Tel: 0300 330 3000
Contact DfT using their online form