diamond geezer

 Friday, November 06, 2020

Anorak Corner (the annual update) [tube edition]

Hurrah, it's that time of year again when TfL silently updates its spreadsheet of total annual passenger numbers at every tube station.

London's ten busiest tube stations (2019) (with changes since 2018)
  1) King's Cross St Pancras (88.3m)
Victoria (85.5m)
Waterloo (82.9m)
Oxford Circus (78.1m)
London Bridge (74.3m)
Liverpool Street (67.2m)
Stratford (64.9m)
Bank/Monument (61.8m)
  9) ↑1 Paddington (48.6m)
↓1 Canary Wharf (47.7m)

King's Cross St Pancras retains its crown as London's busiest tube station, a title it's held since 2017, by attracting 88 million passengers last year. Previous champions Victoria and Waterloo are close behind. Central London rail termini take most of the top positions, with Oxford Circus a rare West End outlier. Out east it's Stratford which dominates, boasting more than twice as many passengers as it had ten years ago. The only stations to have changed places since last year are Paddington and Canary Wharf, indeed Canary Wharf is the only station in the Top 10 to have lost passengers. 2020's data will no doubt show something entirely different, so 2019's ranking is a last hurrah for what normality used to look like.

London's ten busiest tube stations that aren't also National Rail stations (2019)
  1) Oxford Circus (78.1m)
Bank/Monument (61.8m)
Canary Wharf (47.7m)
Tottenham Court Road (42.0m)
Green Park (39.1m)
↑1 Piccadilly Circus (38.4m)
↓1 Bond Street (37.5m)
Leicester Square (34.6m)
South Kensington (33.1m)
↑1 Brixton (32.0m)

The top five tube-only stations have remained static over the last twelve months, below which Piccadilly Circus successfully leapfrogs Bond Street. The majority of these ten non-rail stations are at the heart of the West End, delivering millions of Londoners to the shops and to work. Canary Wharf is the busiest station on just one line, keeping the whole of Docklands ticking over, while South Kensington confirms the pulling power of the museums. Meanwhile Brixton has added an extra two million passengers to return to the Top 10, nudging out longstanding Holborn.

London's ten busiest tube stations outside Zone 2 (2019)
  1) ↑2 Walthamstow Central (18.9m)
  2) Barking (18.1m)
  3) ↓2 Seven Sisters (17.0m)
  4) Ealing Broadway (16.1m)
  5) ↑1 Tooting Broadway (15.43m)
  6) ↓1 Wembley Park (15.42m)
  7) ↑1 Tottenham Hale (14.0m)
  8) ↑1 Balham (13.1m)
  9) ↓2 East Ham (13.0m)
10) Wimbledon (12.5m)

It's all change beyond zone 2 as Walthamstow Central snatches pole position. Its passenger numbers are up 10% since 2018, one of the largest increases of any tube station, while further down the Victoria line Seven Sisters has dropped back. East Ham's fall is another consequence of a drop in passengers, whereas the swap between 5th and 6th is a statistical technicality. A number of these non-central hotspots are at interchanges with other railway lines, with Tooting Broadway the highest-placed tube-only station. If the list were to continue then Harrow-on-the-Hill (11m) would be the highest performing station in Zone 5 and Uxbridge (8m) the busiest in Zone 6.

And now for my favourite list of the year...

London's 10 least busy tube stations (2019)
  1) Kensington (Olympia) (109000)
  2) Roding Valley (450000)
  3) Chigwell (525000)
  4) Grange Hill (652000)
  5) North Ealing (880000)
  6) Theydon Bois (896000)
  7) Moor Park (933000)
  8) Ruislip Gardens (1107000)
  9) ↑3 Upminster Bridge (1108000)
10) ↑1 Ickenham (1119000)

The least used station on the Underground remains poor old Kensington (Olympia), because that's what weekend-only trains (and a tiny handful of weekday-ers) does for you. It has a pitiful total... less than a quarter of the passengers at the second least used station, which continues to be Roding Valley. Indeed the Essex end of the Central line has a strong showing here, including all three stops on the Hainault shuttle. Two years ago four Metropolitan line stations outside London would have made an appearance, but Moor Park is now the only one left. Meanwhile North Ealing (zone 3), Ruislip Gardens (zone 5) and Upminster Bridge (zone 6) all lose out by having more popular stations close by.

The next ten least busy stations: Croxley, Chesham, Fairlop, West Harrow, Mill Hill East, South Kenton, Chorleywood, West Ruislip, North Wembley, Barkingside

Full datasets
» Tube passenger data can be found here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» For the annual rail passenger data update, see January's post

(and if you're thinking hang on, I thought Roding Valley was the least used tube station, I need to apologise...)

Anorak Corner (an apology)

Anorak Corner has been a regular annual feature on this blog since 2007. But if you've been paying attention you may have noticed I haven't published a tube update for well over two years, in fact not since June 2018.

TfL normally slip out an updated spreadsheet in the spring, but in spring 2019 absolutely nothing happened. I've been keeping an eye on the relevant page on the TfL website ever since, which is the best part of eighteen months, but the data's never changed. Then last week, to my surprise, the spreadsheet disappeared. The webpage is now solely a repository of dull monthly metrics and the annual station usage statistics have been withdrawn.

This seemed odd because TfL had promised earlier in the year that the station usage data would be published. An FoI request in March received the response that "2018 and 2019 data will be available at the end of March 2020", but then lockdown happened and it wasn't. Anorak Corner was on hold.

Thankfully another set of data appears to have slipped out in its place. TfL have a website called crowding.data.tfl.gov.uk where they publish detailed open data sets for the benefit of app developers and other statistical folk. A folder called Annual Station Counts was added in June, followed in September by spreadsheets AnnualisedEntryExit_2017.xlsx, AnnualisedEntryExit_2018.xlsx and AnnualisedEntryExit_2019.xlsx. These look very much like the old data but in technicolour, so hurrah, Anorak Corner is back on.

But the numbers don't quite match up. The new 2017 spreadsheet has different totals to the original 2017 spreadsheet, in every case about 5% lower, suggesting there's been a change in how the results are calculated. The difference is roughly equivalent to losing two weeks' worth of passengers. This means New Anorak Corner won't quite align with Old Anorak Corner, although the rankings generally haven't changed.

The 2018 spreadsheet then introduced another change. Almost all the entry and exit numbers are calculated from gateline data, but at three stations they're now based on boarding/alighting surveys instead. This hasn't made much of a difference at Richmond and Wimbledon but it's had a dramatic effect at Kensington (Olympia). The station's 2017 total had been 1,856,000 but its 2018 total was only 111,000 - a staggering decrease of 94%. Stripping out Overground users means a much better match to actual passenger numbers, but also suggests several previous years of data were very wrong.

I've based this year's Anorak Corner on the 2019 spreadsheet. This follows the updated method of measuring passenger numbers so is the new definitive standard. But it appears I've been telling you a lie for years regarding the tube's least used station. It's not Roding Valley, it's Kensington (Olympia), as should have been self-evident from the pitiful number of trains it gets. Please take all the other figures in this year's Anorak Corner with a suitable margin of scepticism. New Methodology, New Anorak Corner.

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