Rail companies have been told to publish service-by-service overcrowding information so passengers can make an informed choice about which train to catch.
Transport Minister Norman Baker has written to every operator urging them to publish information on a train-by-train basis.
Mr Baker wants the firms to adopt a simple traffic light system to indicate which services are the most overcrowded.
The minister highlighted posters produced by London Midland setting out this information for passengers at stations. He said the company publishes details of each of its services into Birmingham and London at the busiest times and colour-codes them - red, amber or green - depending on how crowded they are.This gives passengers the choice to alter their travel plans to catch a less crowded train.
Mr Baker said he wants to see this kind of initiative adopted across England and Wales as soon as possible.
“Publication of train-by-train crowding information is, in the short term, an important tool for allowing passengers to make informed choices about which trains to travel on, and convincing those passengers who can change their travel patterns to do so,” Mr Baker said.
“The coalition Government is delivering real benefits to passengers.
“We have ruled out making further increases to fares at the very busiest times and we are investing record amounts in improvements to the network, but where it is simply not possible to increase services, encouraging passengers to change their travel patterns is the best way to tackle a crowded network.
“The innovative approach taken by London Midland is helping to smooth the peaks in demand for their services and is making the most of the investment going into rail services in their area. I am keen to see the rail industry working together to follow London Midland’s example.”
The move comes a fortnight after passengers groups and unions reacted angrily to the announcement of a round of above-inflation rail fare rises in the New Year.
Campaigners called on the Government to step in to halt a proposed 4.1% average rise despite many services being overcrowded.
RPI inflation rose by 3.1% in the year to July, down from 3.3% last month, but regulated fares are set to rise by an extra 1% in England when the new prices are announced from January.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said nobody liked paying more for fares but the Government was investing heavily in the railways. Mr McLoughlin said he hoped above-inflation rises would end by 2015 in line with the Office of Budget Responsibility’s estimates.
The Department for Transport now publishes statistics showing overcrowding in a number of major cities in England and Wales, and ‘top ten’ lists of the country’s most overcrowded train services.