It's time once again for the annual splurge of passenger data from across Britain's railway network.
A word of caution before we start. The statisticians who put the report together have used a revised methodology this year, with particularly significant effects across the London area. Passengers using a Travelcard to travel by rail within London are now being counted more accurately, using a TfL model, rather than being averaged out according to out-of-date data. As a result some central London termini have lost a few million passengers, and certain stations outside zone 1 have similarly gained, especially on the orbital Overground. This doesn't mean that the old data was wrong, merely that the new data is better, but it does mean that year on year figures aren't necessarily directly comparable. Take any big changes with a pinch of scepticism.
London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2015/16)(with changes since 2014/15) 1) -- Waterloo (99m) 2) -- Victoria (81m) 3) -- Liverpool Street (67m) 4) -- London Bridge (54m) 5) ↑1 Euston (42m) 6) ↑3 Stratford (41m) 7) -- Paddington (37m) 8) -- King's Cross (33m) 9) ↑2 Clapham Junction (32.3m) 10) -- St Pancras (31.7m)
Most of London's Rail Top 10 is filled by the same old stations with the same old rankings. Waterloo is still easily top of the list, with Victoria and Liverpool Street sitting comfortably behind. But there are three changes, all of them upwards, and all at big stations also served by the Overground. Stratford is the big mover, with over 10m more passengers than last year, about a third of which is genuine growth and the remainder due to the change in methodology. That's an astonishing vote of confidence in a station which ten years ago had only 8m passengers and was in decline. Meanwhile Clapham Junction creeps into the Top 10, and Euston nudges up, both at the expense of an unexpected collapse at a well known rail terminus. Charing Cross used to be in fifth place, but now they're counting the numbers differently it's slipped to 11th, and is in danger of being overtaken by Highbury and Islington.
London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini (2015/16) 1) -- Stratford (41m) 2) -- Clapham Junction (32m) 3) ↑2 Highbury & Islington (28m) 4) ↓1 East Croydon (24.3m) 5) ↑3 Canada Water (23.6m) 6) ↓2 Vauxhall (21m) 7) ↓1 Wimbledon (20m) 8) ↑11 Whitechapel (19m) 9) ↑1 Barking (13m) 10) ↓1 Richmond (12m)
Once you strip out the central London termini a rather different picture appears, and it's substantially orange. More than half of this Top 10 features stations with an Overground service - not always the main flow, but boosting passenger numbers all the same. Whitechapel is the biggest climber, despite several weekend closures, as the new way of counting boosts its passenger numbers by 63%! And that's not the biggest percentage increase - Shepherd's Bush is up 69% (last year not even in the Top 40, this year 20th) and Canada Water up a whopping 71%.
Here's a more traditional-looking list, focusing on suburban commuter traffic, with stations operated by the Overground and TfL Rail stripped out. Other than Barking, look, all the big-hitters are south of the river. For comparison purposes, North Greenwich tube sees over 26m passengers a year, so is busier than all but one of the stations listed above. But remember that these are only figures for entries and exits. Clapham Junction's total almost doubles if you include interchanges, and interchanges also account for a large proportion of the crowds using East Croydon and Lewisham.
London's ten least busy Overground stations (2015/16) 1) Emerson Park (259,000) 2) South Hampstead (456,000) 3) Headstone Lane (473,000) 4) Stamford Hill (503,000) 5) Turkey Street (604,000) 6) Penge West (641,000) 7) Cambridge Heath (647,000) 8) Hatch End (707,000) 9) South Acton (722,000) 10) Crouch Hill (825,000)
Here's a list I don't think has been done before. Topping the 'Overground Bottom 10' is Emerson Park, the only halt on the runty Romford-Upminster service. That's no surprise, but it's also true that passenger numbers have increased significantly since TfL took over the line, up over 100,000 since last year. Headstone Lane, Hatch End and Turkey Street are the other contenders from outer London, but a lot of the other poor performers are much further in, just not particularly well used. South Hampstead is very close to Swiss Cottage, which has a better service, and likewise a lot of passengers near Cambridge Heath will prefer to use Bethnal Green. In total twenty Overground stations have annual passenger numbers below a million, whereas only two tube stations in London can claim the same.
Big news, London has a new least-used station. It's been Sudbury & Harrow Road for several years, but now Angel Road has taken the crown. Both have rush-hour-only weekday services, but changes in counting methodology have reduced Angel Road's total by 68% whilst boosting Sudbury & Harrow Road by a third. Crews Hill, in the meantime, has genuinely lost a third of its passengers without any tweaks to methodology at all, and South Merton (on the Sutton Loop) appears in the list for the first time. Expect Angel Road to leap in popularity in a few years time when the proposed STAR service to Stratford opens, and expect the stations on the Greenford line to plummet when Crossrail severs their direct trains to Paddington.
OK, enough of London.
The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2015/16) 1) -- Birmingham New Street (39m) 2) -- Glasgow Central (30m) 3) -- Leeds (29.7m) 4) -- Manchester Piccadilly (26m) 5) -- Edinburgh (22m) 6) -- Gatwick Airport (18m) 7) -- Brighton (17.3m) 8) ↑1 Reading (16.8m) 9) ↓1 Glasgow Queen Street (16.4m) 10) -- Liverpool Central (15.6m)
There's not much change here, in terms of ordering. Only two stations change places, presumably because Reading's a bit more attractive now it's had its upgrade. But numbers of passengers have increased at all the other stations in the Top 10, with Birmingham New Street enjoying a post-upgrade boost of over four million. New Street is also the only station outside London to make it into the national Top 10, slotting into the otherwise-all-London list at number seven, between Stratford and Paddington. And if you're intrigued by Liverpool's representation being a Merseyrail station rather than the expected biggie, rest assured that Lime Street is in fact 11th, less than half a million passengers behind.
Finally, here's the list everyone always finds the most intriguing. These are the stations that can't even muster 10 passengers a month, such is the inaccessibility of their location or the paucity of their service. Shippea Hill (near Ely) remains Britain's most ill-used station, despite having two (ill-timed) trains each day, whereas Reddish South, Denton and Pilning get only one a week. Any changes in position within the top 10 should be taken with an enormous pinch of salt due to the volatility of the statistics when passenger numbers are so low. But Tees-Side Airport trebling its usage cannot be ignored - perhaps visits by enthusiasts who love a challenge have made the difference. There are also three stations here that haven't been in this particular list before - Stanlow & Thornton is located inside an oil refinery with barely any public access, Chapelton is a minor request stop on the line to Barnstaple, and Clifton was closed for most of last year while works were undertaken on a nearby tunnel. Those living in south London may grimace at the service they receive, but at least they have trains.