Thousands more seats are to be made available to combat chronic overcrowding on the the Brighton main line.

The Government last night revealed plans to axe the non-stop Gatwick Express service in a bid to give every standard class passenger a seat on rush-hour commuter trains through Sussex.

Transport Minister Derek Twigg said the move would enable the creation of up to 1,280 extra seats an hour between Brighton and London at the busiest times of the day - between 7am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm.

While insisting that "fast, frequent" trains between Gatwick and London Victoria would remain, he admitted that they would have to serve other stations too.

The Argus reported in November last year that 5,833 of the 75,228 people crammed into Southern Trains carriages during the average weekday morning peak period were on trains already officially classed as full.

Commuters in Brighton have welcomed the announcement, although supporters of the non-stop London-to-Gatwick service and airlines expressed dismay.

Shelley Atlas, chairman of Brighton Line Commuters, said: "Anything that improves capacity for passengers will obviously be very welcome. This is a way of spreading the load of passengers across the trains. This will hopefully meet everyone's expectations of a better service."

Craig Turton, deputy chairman of the city council's environment committee, said: "It's great news for furthering sustainable transport. It will benefit commuters and hopefully increase visitor numbers to Brighton and Hove."

The details of the new timetabling arrangements are now being drawn up by transport officials, Network Rail and train operators.

The sweeping overhaul, which could even spell the end of the Gatwick Express branding, was set out in the DfT's Brighton Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy yesterday.

The document outlines the Government's proposals for the route, which carries 32,000 passengers a day, until 2012.

Studies have found that the Gatwick Express in its present form carries only 62 per cent of capacity even at peak times.

Transport chiefs now want to make better use of the resources available. Mr Twigg said the shake-up would "exploit the capability of the network to its fullest extent".

The strategy paper also detailed plans for services to Brighton to stop at more stations at the busiest times.

Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner welcomed the increase in seats at peak times but expressed concern about additional stops. He said: "It's a good improvement and I do broadly welcome it.

"But I'm doubtful about putting in extra stops on the faster services from Brighton (as) they are full enough already."

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper said extra seats on the Brighton mainline would be welcomed by constituents who commute at busy times.

A DfT spokesman said new timetables would be announced in "due course" as the details have to be worked out.

Airlines last night criticised the Government for sacrificing the Gatwick Express to achieve the extra capacity from Brighton.

Bob Schumacher, senior director of Continental Airlines, said: "The proposal to do away with dedicated, non-stop rail service between Gatwick and London Victoria is outrageous.

"If implemented, it would make Gatwick less attractive as a London gateway and would adversely affect local businesses, commuters, and international visitors alike."