Commuters packed like sardines into overcrowded trains were yesterday offered the prospect of a little more leg room - in 2014.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander announced plans to introduce 1,000 extra carriages to tackle "increasing pressures" on key sections of the network.

Mr Alexander said the precise location of the new stock would be decided later but said improvements - including longer and more frequent trains - would be targeted at the "most congested" routes and "pinch points" in the network.

In a hint that this could signal good news for Sussex, he said: "The demand for rail services across some areas of the South East of England is rising even faster than London."

One of Sussex's major train operators yesterday welcomed the Government's pledge to introduce the extra carriages between 2009 and 2014.

A spokeswoman for Southern, which runs services between the South Coast and central London, said: "We will certainly be working with the Department of Transport to see whether there are opportunities for using any of what they are proposing to alleviate overcrowding.

"We know there's some overcrowding some of the time. At the moment we run all of our stock at peak times and there is nothing left over. We do what we can and do as much tweaking as possible to accommodate passengers."

Mr Alexander, in a speech to the Rail Magazine Conference in London, said supporting the expansion of the national fleet was an attempt to "meet future demand and increasing capacity".

Over the past decade passenger numbers had grown by 40 per cent and experts had predicted key sections of the network would face "increasing pressures" in the future, prompted by economic growth.

The minister said: "Over a billion journeys were made by rail last year. And as the economy grows and trains become more reliable, people will want to use them more.

"But for the rail passenger, a train that is crowded because of record demand feels just the same as a train that is crowded for any other reason.

"So if we want a railway that supports Britain's needs and meets customer expectations in the years ahead, this is a vital next step."

This summer the Government will set out in greater detail its proposals to help train operating companies like Southern and Southeastern increase their capacity.

Mr Alexander said: "I anticipate that we will significantly increase the number of carriages on the network by 2014."

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