It's time once again for the annual splurge of passenger data from across Britain's railway network, this time covering the period April 2017 to March 2018.
Time was when these figures went pretty much unnoticed apart from a brief quirky news article about this year's tumbleweed station. But these days they're social media gold, with the Office of Road and Rail trumpeting the release date weeks in advance, then a wild burst of media excitement on the day itself. That day is today, and the official release time is 9:30am.
London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2017/18)(with changes since 2016/17) 1) -- Waterloo (94m) 2) -- Victoria (75m) 3) -- Liverpool Street (67m) 4) -- London Bridge (48m) 5) -- Euston (45m) 6) -- Stratford (40m) 7) -- Paddington (37m) 8) ↑1 St Pancras (35m) 9) ↓1 King's Cross (34m) 10) ↑1 Highbury & Islington (30m)
London's Rail Top Ten is filled by almost the same stations as last year, and in almost the same positions. Waterloo is still easily top of the list, despite an engineering blockade in the summer, with Victoria and Liverpool Street sitting comfortably behind. King's Cross and St Pancras change places, with improved Thameslink services likely to be a contributory factor. Even if they were a single combined station they'd still only be in third place. Highbury & Islington's new entry is at the expense of Clapham Junction, which slips to 11th.
London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini (2017/18) 1) -- Stratford (40m) 2) ↑1 Highbury & Islington (30m) 3) ↓1 Clapham Junction (29m) 4) -- Canada Water (25m) 5) -- East Croydon (24m) 6) -- Vauxhall (20m) 7) -- Wimbledon (19m) 8) -- Whitechapel (14m) 9) -- Barking (13m) 10) -- Richmond (11m)
Once you strip out the central London termini a rather different picture appears, and it's substantially orange. One reason for this is that at Overground stations the data includes everyone changing to or from the tube, because technically that counts as an entrance or exit even if passengers don't leave the station. You can imagine how much this boosts stations like Highbury & Islington [Victoria], Canada Water [Jubilee] and Whitechapel [District/H&C]. So it might be more informative to discount TfL-operated stations, like so...
Here's a more traditional-looking list, focusing on suburban commuter traffic, with stations operated by the Overground and TfL stripped out. Other than Barking, note that all the big-hitters are south of the river. Only Bromley South and Balham have swapped places this year, and by the tiniest of margins. For comparison purposes, North Greenwich tube sees over 28m passengers a year, so is busier than all but one of the stations listed above. Clapham Junction's total would double if you included interchanges, and interchanges also account for a large proportion of the crowds using East Croydon and Lewisham.
London's ten least busy Overground stations (2017/18) 1) Emerson Park (308,000) ↑11% 2) South Hampstead (422,000) -- 3) Headstone Lane (455,000) ↓5% 4) Crouch Hill (470,000) ↑65% 5) Walthamstow Queens Road (501,000) ↑130% 6) Woodgrange Park (514,000) ↑160% 7) Stamford Hill (543,000) ↓6% 8) Wanstead Park (563,000) ↑165% 9) South Kenton (570,000) ↓4% 10) Leytonstone High Road (571,000) ↑170%
Last year's figures were massively distorted by lengthy closures on the Gospel Oak to Barking line. This year they spring back - not quite completely, because those closures dribbled on, but enough to restore some sense of normality. Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line returns to the bottom of the heap, even though its passengers numbers have increased by another 10%. Meanwhile South Hampstead's total looks remarkably low for a station in a densely-populated part of Zone 2, but in reality nearby Swiss Cottage is a much stronger draw.
Angel Road has lost its crown as London's least used station (and should be expected to descend more rapidly in two years' time after being reborn as Meridian Water). Its place as the capital's least used station is taken by South Greenford, a desolate halt on the Greenford branch which lost all its direct trains to Paddington at the start of last year, and whose passengers no longer seem keen on travelling to West Ealing and changing there. Also on this branch are 'high climber' Drayton Green and 'new entry' Castle Bar Park, each of which have lost over half of their passengers in a single year. For comparison purposes, London has forty-nine National Rail stations that are less busy than the tube's least used station, Roding Valley.
But enough of London.
The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2017/18) 1) -- Birmingham New Street (44m) 2) -- Glasgow Central (33m) 3) -- Leeds (31m) 4) -- Manchester Piccadilly (28m) 5) -- Edinburgh (23m) 6) -- Gatwick Airport (20m) 7) -- Reading (17m) 8) ↑1 Brighton (16.9m) 9) ↓1 Liverpool Central (16.5m) 10) ↑1 Glasgow Queen Street (16.4m)
It's no change at the top, indeed no change in the top seven. Recently-revamped Birmingham New Street remains at the top, and is the only station outside London to make it into the national Top Ten, slotting inbetween Euston and Stratford. Glasgow Central remains in second place, and Glasgow Queen Street nudges back into tenth place following a lengthy closure during the previous year. The only other stations outside London to exceed 10 million passengers are Liverpool Lime Street, Cardiff Central, Cambridge and Bristol Temple Meads.
Finally, here's the list everyone finds the most intriguing. These are the stations that can't even muster four passengers a week, such is the inaccessibility of their location or the paucity of their service.
The 'least used' rankings are often volatile, as you'd expect when dealing with very small numbers, and this year is no exception. British Steel Redcar has sprung into pole position, as might be expected when the steelworks entirely surrounding it closed in 2015. Barry Links might do better in next year's figures because golf's Open Championship was held at neighbouring Carnoustie this summer. Denton and Reddish South see only one train a week, hence their appearance. Teesside Airport, which was the least used station from 2010 to 2013, had its two trains a week cut to one this time last year. Elton & Orston and Thorpe Culvert are usually-skipped stations on the Nottingham to Skegness line. Coombe Junction Halt is the only one of these ten in the southern half of the country, and by far the least used station in Cornwall.
There's also a story to be told about the stations which are no longer listed here. Shippea Hill is now only number 19, thanks in no small measure to Geoff & Vicki's incursion as part of All The Stations last summer. Pilning has a passionate users group whose campaigns have successfully doubled ridership this year on top of a previous 400% boost. Sugar Loaf has gone from Wales' quietest station to unexpected tourist attraction with a 700% leap. Least Used stations don't always remain least used, there's always hope. But when there are still 24 stations which can't even muster an average of one passenger per day, we perhaps ought to question the service they're receiving.