diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 01, 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 2019 to March 2020. That's fifty weeks of normality and a fortnight of abrupt pandemic nosedive, so passenger numbers might be a fraction lower than usual (but overall rankings shouldn't be greatly affected).

London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2019/20) (with changes since 2018/19)
  1) -- Waterloo (87m)
  2) -- Victoria (74m)
  3) -- Liverpool Street (66m)
  4) -- London Bridge (63m)
  5) ↑2 Paddington (44.9m)
  6) ↓1 Euston (44.8m)
  7) ↓1 Stratford (42m)
  8) -- St Pancras (36m)
  9) -- King's Cross (33m)
10) -- Highbury & Islington (29m)

London's Rail Top Ten is filled by the same stations as last year in almost the same positions. Waterloo is still easily top of the list, but with 7% fewer passengers than last year because of strike action last winter. London Bridge has added another two million extra passengers this year following its rebuild, and is 13m ahead of where it was five years ago. Paddington has leapfrogged Euston and Stratford now that passengers arriving from Heathrow are being counted properly. 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 (2019/20)
  1) -- Stratford (42m)
  2) -- Highbury & Islington (29.4m)
  3) -- Clapham Junction (28.9m)
  4) -- East Croydon (25m)
  5) -- Canada Water (22m)
  6) -- Vauxhall (20m)
  7) -- Wimbledon (17m)
  8) -- Barking (14m)
  9) -- Whitechapel (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 this 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 (2019/20)
  1) -- East Croydon (25m)
  2) -- Barking (14m)
  3) -- Richmond (11m)
  4) ↑1 Romford (9.4m)
  5) ↓1 Surbiton (8.8m)
  6) -- Bromley South (8.0m)
  7) -- Ilford (7.8m)
  8) -- Sutton (6.5m)
  9) -- Upminster (5.9m)
10) ↑2 Orpington (5.2m)

It's again a very comfortable win for East Croydon. Romford overtakes Surbiton thanks to its improved pre-Crossrail services. Surbiton is the 50th best used station in the entire UK. Northwest London does not appear in this list because it's better served by tube.

London's ten least busy Overground stations (2019/20)
  1) Emerson Park (322,000) ↓8%
South Hampstead (408,000) ↓4%
Headstone Lane (423,000) ↓6%
Stamford Hill (514,000) ↓1%
South Kenton (555,000) ↑2%
Crouch Hill (597,000) ↓15%
Woodgrange Park (629,000) ↓18%
Walthamstow Queens Road (644,000) ↓12%
Penge West (653,000) ↓4%
Hatch End (699,000) ↓4%

Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line remains at the bottom of the heap, although its passengers numbers are down this year (possibly due to repeated weekend closures). 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 Gospel Oak to Barking line suffered from lack of rolling stock and a freight train derailment during the year, which helps explains the sharp drop in passengers at Crouch Hill, Woodgrange Park and Walthamstow Queens Road. Elsewhere a 4% decrease is precisely in line with what you'd expect the impact of the pandemic to be.

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2019/20)
  1) ↑2 Angel Road (5900)
  2) ↓1 South Greenford (28400)
  3) ↓1 Drayton Green (31600)
  4) -- Sudbury & Harrow Road (38100)
  5) ↑1 Sudbury Hill Harrow (79100)
  6) ↑1 Castle Bar Park (81100)
  7) ↓2 Morden South (87200)
  8) ↑2 Crews Hill (114000)
  9) ↑* Meridian Water (137000)
10) ↓1 Birkbeck (148000)

The capital's least used station is, or rather was, Angel Road. This grimy industrial halt was closed at the end of May 2019, accumulating only two months of data, and replaced by shiny step-free Meridian Water a couple of hundred metres down the line. Amusingly both stations appear in The Bottom 10 (and they'd still be in 9th place even if you combined their figures). This has nudged down South Greenford and Drayton Green, intermediate stops on the Greenford branch which lost all their direct trains to Paddington at the start of 2018. Elsewhere all the usual suspects appear including both of Sudbury's infrequently-served stations.

But enough of London.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2019/20)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (47m)
  2) -- Glasgow Central (33m)
  3) ↑1 Manchester Piccadilly (32m)
  4) ↓1 Leeds (31m)
  5) -- Edinburgh (23m)
  6) -- Gatwick Airport (21m)
  7) -- Brighton (17.4m)
  8) ↑1 Reading (16.8m)
  9) ↓1 Glasgow Queen Street (16.7m)
10) -- Liverpool Central (16.5m)

Recently-revamped Birmingham New Street remains in pole position and is the only station outside London to make it into the national Top Ten, slotting inbetween London Bridge and Paddington. Glasgow Central remains in second place but Manchester Piccadilly is close behind, boosted by improved passenger-counting methodology. 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, Bristol Temple Meads, Cambridge, Sheffield and York.

Finally, here's the list everyone always 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 (2019/20)
  1) ↑29 Berney Arms (42)
  2) ↑4 Elton & Orston (68)
  3) ↓2 Stanlow & Thornton (82)
  4) ↑1 Havenhouse (84)
  5) ↓4 Denton (92)
  6) ↑3 Polesworth (96)
  7) ↑10 Thorpe Culvert (140)
  8) ↑36 Sugar Loaf (156)
  9) ↓6 Reddish South (158)
10) ↑19 Shippea Hill (164)

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 is Berney Arms, Norfolk's infamously atmospheric halt stranded amid the marshes with no road access. It was closed from October 2018 to 24th February 2020 due to signalling upgrade works so it's done well to attract 42 passengers in five weeks (and won't be top next year). Elton & Orston, Havenhouse and Thorpe Culvert are usually-skipped stations on the Nottingham to Skegness line. Stanlow & Thornton is inside an oil refinery so not intended for use by the general public. Denton and ninth-place Reddish South in Greater Manchester see only two trains a week. Polesworth in the West Midlands only gets one train a day, in one direction only. Sugar Loaf in the Powys hills is Wales' least used station (Scotland's is Lochluichart in 14th place). Finally Shippea Hill used to be Britain's least used station four years ago and is back in the Bottom 10 now the publicity its lowly status generated has faded away.

There's also a story to be told about the stations which are no longer listed here. 2017/18's's least-used station - Redcar British Steel - had all its services suspended in December but still attracted enough 'rail tourists' to leap beyond the Bottom 50. Teesside Airport, the least used station from 2011 to 2014, served over 300 tenacious visitors this year despite only getting one a train a week. Even lowly Coombe Junction Halt in Cornwall, which was the least used station ten years ago, is down to 12th 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 30 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: 18/19 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

» Anorak Corner [tube edition]
» Anorak Corner [DLR/Overground/Crossrail edition]
» Anorak Corner [bus edition]

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