diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Anorak Corner [National Rail edition]

It's time once again for the annual splurge of passenger data from across Britain's railway network, this batch covering the period April 2018 to March 2019. They've emerged a month later than usual, but have just been published amid the usual wild burst of media excitement so let's get stuck in.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2018/19) (with changes since 2017/18)
  1) -- Waterloo (94m)
-- Victoria (75m)
-- Liverpool Street (69m)
-- London Bridge (61m)
-- Euston (46m)
-- Stratford (41m)
-- Paddington (38m)
-- St Pancras (36m)
-- King's Cross (35m)
-- Highbury & Islington (30m)

London's Rail Top Ten is filled by the same stations as last year, and in the same positions. Waterloo is still easily top of the list, with Victoria and Liverpool Street some way behind. London Bridge has added 13m extra passengers this year, now that it's fully open after being rebuilt, and is 5m ahead of where it was five years ago. King's Cross and St Pancras would be in third position if they were a single combined station. Highbury & Islington only just nudges Charing Cross out of the Top 10.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini (2018/19)
  1) -- Stratford (41m)
-- Highbury & Islington (30.4m)
-- Clapham Junction (29.5m)
↑1 East Croydon (25m)
↓1 Canada Water (24m)
-- Vauxhall (21m)
-- Wimbledon (18m)
↑1 Barking (14.5m)
↓1 Whitechapel (14.4m)
-- Richmond (12m)

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]. Clapham Junction's total would double if the data included interchanges.

London's ten busiest stations beyond zone 3 (2018/19)
  1) -- East Croydon (25m)
-- Barking (15m)
-- Richmond (12m)
-- Surbiton (9.3m)
-- Romford (9.2m)
-- Bromley South (8.4m)
-- Ilford (7.9m)
-- Sutton (6.5m)
-- Upminster (5.9m)
-- Twickenham (5.5m)

A comfortable win for East Croydon. Northwest London does not appear in this list because it's better served by tube.

London's ten least busy Overground stations (2018/19)
  1) Emerson Park (350,000) ↑14%
South Hampstead (426,000) ↑1%
Headstone Lane (452,000) ↓1%
Stamford Hill (517,000) ↓5%
South Kenton (545,000) ↓4%
Kensal Green (632,000) ↓4%
Penge West (684,000) ↑2%
Hatch End (701,000) ↑1%
Crouch Hill (707,000) ↑50%
Walthamstow Queens Road (735,000) ↑47%

Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line remains at the bottom of the heap, although its passengers numbers have increased by another 10% (and more than doubled since TfL took over in 2015). South Hampstead's total looks remarkably low for a station in a densely-populated part of Zone 2, but nearby Swiss Cottage is a much stronger draw. The data helps to explain why Stamford Hill's ticket office has been closed (but not why South Hampstead's and Headstone Lane's stay open). Last year's figures were distorted by lengthy closures on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, so ignore the massive increases in passengers at Crouch Hill and Walthamstow Queens Road.

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2018/19)
  1) -- South Greenford (28100)
↑1 Drayton Green (29200)
↓1 Angel Road (32900)
-- Sudbury & Harrow Road (42300)
-- Morden South (67500)
-- Sudbury Hill Harrow (79600)
-- Castle Bar Park (79900)
↑1 South Merton (115000)
↓1 Birkbeck (137000)
↑1 Crews Hill (139000)

The capital's least used station is still South Greenford, a desolate halt on the Greenford branch which lost all its direct trains to Paddington at the start of 2018. Also on this line are second place Drayton Green and the slightly-better-used Castle Bar Park. Angel Road slips to third, but with an 8% increase in passengers (and will still be on next year's list because it wasn't reborn as Meridian Water until September). For comparison purposes, London has twenty-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 (2018/19)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (48m)
  2) -- Glasgow Central (33m)
  3) -- Leeds (31m)
  4) -- Manchester Piccadilly (30m)
  5) -- Edinburgh (24m)
  6) -- Gatwick Airport (21m)
  7) ↑1 Brighton (18m)
  8) ↑2 Glasgow Queen Street (17.2m)
  9) ↓2 Reading (17.1m)
10) ↓1 Liverpool Central (15m)

It's no change at the top, indeed no change in the top six. 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 London Bridge and Euston. Glasgow Central remains in second place, and Glasgow Queen Street rises to eighth place following a recent upgrade. The appearance of Gatwick Airport and Brighton confirms how very busy that line has become. 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 UK's ten least busy National Rail stations (2018/19)
=1) ↑2 Denton (46)
↑4 Stanlow & Thornton (46)
↑4 Reddish South (60)
↓2 Barry Links (122)
↑6 Havenhouse (158)
↑2 Elton & Orston (164)
↑9 Kildonan (168)
↑31 Lochluichart (180)
↑8 Polesworth (186)
↑5 Sampford Courtenay (186)

The 'least used' rankings are often volatile, as you'd expect when dealing with very small numbers, and this year is no exception. In first place we have a tie(!) between Denton and Stanlow & Thornton, both in the North West. Denton and third-place Reddish South see only two trains a week, and even this paltry service was additionally affected by cancellations due to strike action. Stanlow & Thornton is inside an oil refinery, so not intended for use by the general public. Barry Links is one of three Scottish stations in the list, the other two being remote Highland halts. Havenhouse and Elton & Orston are usually-skipped stations on the Nottingham to Skegness line. Polesworth in the West Midlands only gets one train a day, in one direction only. Sampford Courtenay is on a heritage railway, and is only served by GWR on summer Sundays.

There's also a story to be told about the stations which are no longer listed here. Last year's least-used station - Redcar British Steel - gained sufficient notoriety to leap from 40 passengers last year to 360 this and is no longer in the Bottom Twenty. Teesside Airport, the least used station from 2011 to 2014, attracted over 200 tenacious visitors this year despite only getting one a train a week. Breich in Scotland benefitted from a £2.4m redevelopment and now has three times as many passengers as before. Even lowly Coombe Junction Halt in Cornwall, which was the least used station ten years ago, has finally exited this list after becoming an attraction in its own right. Least Used stations don't always remain least used, there's always hope. But when there are still 25 stations which can't even muster an average of one passenger per day, we perhaps ought to question the service they're receiving.

» Rail passenger data here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» Previous updates: 17/18 16/17 15/16 14/15, 13/14, 12/13, 11/12, 10/11, 09/10, 08/09, 07/08, 06/07, 05/06

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