A snapshot of 1950s tube ridership statistics has come to light, courtesy of former TfL employee Mike Horne. The filled-in map shows the total number of users at each London Underground station in the week ending 17th February 1951. It's an internal London Transport document, with blank boxes which would have been filled in by hand, very neatly.
n.b. The map only gives data for London Transport stations, not British Rail-run stations. So, for example, there is no data for stations south of Putney Bridge, west of Northolt, north of Kilburn Park or east of Bow Road.
n.b. All numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand.
I've used Mike's map to knock up lists of the most and least used stations at the time. Thanks Mike!
It's a surprise to see Charing Cross, now called Embankment, at the very top of the list - the station's a lot quieter now. It's less of a surprise to see King's Cross St Pancras hot on its heels. Waterloo and Victoria are a little further down the list than they are today, because the Jubilee and Victoria lines weren't operational in 1951. West End stations like Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and Holborn were relatively busier in 1951 than they are today.
Of course, what everybody really enjoys is a list of least used stations.
London's ten least busy tube stations (1951) 1=) Blake Hall (1000) 1=) North Weald (1000) 3=) Ongar (3000) 3=) Wendover (3000) 5=) Fairlop (5000) 5=) White City (5000) 7=) Chalfont & Latimer (6000) 7=) Stoke Mandeville (6000) 9=) Barkingside (7000) 9=) Chigwell (7000)
1951's three least used stations were on the Epping-Ongar shuttle at the farthest tip of the Central line. Blake Hall no doubt had considerably fewer passengers than North Weald, but both have been rounded to 1000. Blake Hall left the Underground network in 1981, followed by North Weald and Ongar in 1994. Wendover and Stoke Mandeville were last served by Metropolitan line trains in 1961. White City, which closed in 1959, was formerly known as Wood Lane (and was located 100m west of the current Wood Lane station). Of these ten, only Chigwell is amongst the 10 least used stations today.
The next 10: Chesham, Grange Hill, Theydon Bois, Shoreditch, Chorleywood, North Ealing, South Acton, Moor Park, Roding Valley, Watford
The least used station in central London was Aldwych with 28000 passengers. Across the entire map, it was only the 40th least-used station. Aldwych closed in 1994.
You can get a rough idea of annual ridership by multiplying these numbers by 52. It should be noted that 1951's figures are for 'users' and 2017's figures are for entries and exits only, which isn't the same thing. However, this does sort-of enable me to compare 1951's figures to 2017's, based solely on available data.
For example, Bow Road station had 82000 passengers a week in 1951, which equates to 4.3 million passengers a year. But these days it has 5.7 million passengers a year, a 33% increase. The average increase across all the stations is more like 90%, although the figures vary massively, so don't read too much into this.
In 1951 Highbury & Islington was a minor interchange on a minor branch of the Northern line, whereas today it's on the Victoria line and the Overground, which helps explain the massive leap. Wood Lane served a ruined stadium rather than a massive shopping centre, so it too has perked up hugely. London Bridge, Marylebone and Euston are three rail termini whose numbers have shot up, and blimey, look how Covent Garden's mushroomed since it stopped selling fruit and vegetables.
Greatest % decrease in annual passenger numbers (1951-2017) 1) South Harrow (6.4m→2.2m, -66%) 2) Charing Cross (48m→20m, -59%) 3) Ealing Common (7.7m→3.2m, -59%) 4) Park Royal (4.3m →2.0m, -53%) 5) Roding Valley (0.7m→0.4m, -46%) 6) Ruislip (3.6m→2.0m, -45%) 7) Burnt Oak (7.9m→4.5m, -43%) 8) Sudbury Town (3.1m→1.8m, -42%) 9) Sudbury Hill (3.0m→1.9m, -38%) 10) Edgware (8.3m→5.3m, -36%)
I'm struck here by the concentration of stations in northwest London, and specifically the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly line. Half the stations in the list lie between Rayners Lane and Acton Town, where it seems the local population no longer travel in anything like their former numbers. Burnt Oak and Edgware suggest a similar decline at one tip of the Northern line. Meanwhile the full extent of Charing Cross's descent is laid bare, as commuters no longer pour down to the Embankment in anywhere near similar numbers. 1951 was a different world.