diamond geezer

 Friday, November 25, 2022

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 2021 to March 2022. That's a less freakish twelve months than last year's statistics but still significantly impacted by the pandemic, with subdued commuting, reduced timetables and advice to minimise travel. It means these still aren't properly representative figures so should be taken with a pinch of statistical salt.

n.b. To try to maintain some semblance of reality the changes I've included below are from two years ago when travel was more normal.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations (2021/22) (with changes since 2019/20)
  1) -- Waterloo (41m)
  2) -- Victoria (37m)
  3) ↑1 London Bridge (33m)
  4) ↓1 Liverpool Street (32m)
  5) ↑2 Stratford (28m)
  6) ↓1 Paddington (24m)
  7) ↓1 Euston (23m)
  8) ↑1 King's Cross (20m)
  9) ↓1 St Pancras (19m)
10) -- Highbury & Islington (18m)

After a blippy year when Stratford took the crown, Waterloo is back where it's long been at the top of the London (and national) rankings. Two years ago it had 87 million entries/exits so passenger numbers have roughly halved, but that's true across the entire top 10 - a direct effect of the pandemic. Elsewhere the list sees only minor shuffling as the big hitters continue to hit big. The rail terminus just outside the Top 10 is Charing Cross (16m), whereas Fenchurch Street, Marylebone and Cannon Street are a lot further down with 7m-8m apiece. It's amazing that Highbury & Islington makes the top 10, and is the UK's 13th busiest station, all thanks to passengers interchanging with the Victoria line. Next year's figures will be the first to include Crossrail so it'll be interesting to see how big a boost that gives Liverpool Street, Stratford and Paddington.

The UK Top 10 looks exactly the same as this but with Birmingham New Street in eighth place and Manchester Piccadilly in 10th.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini (2021/22)
  1) -- Stratford (28m)
  2) -- Highbury & Islington (18m)
  3) -- Clapham Junction (17m)
  4) -- East Croydon (15m)
  5) -- Canada Water (14m)
  6) -- Vauxhall (12m)
  7) ↑1 Barking (11m)
  8) ↓1 Wimbledon (10m)
  9) -- Whitechapel (9m)
10) ↑1 West Ham (7m)

Once you strip out the central London termini a rather different picture appears and it's substantially orange. One reason for this is that the data at Overground stations 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 almost double if the data included interchanges.

London's ten busiest stations beyond zone 3 (2021/22)
  1) -- East Croydon (15m)
  2) -- Barking (11m)
  3) -- Richmond (6.4m)
  4) -- Romford (6.3m)
  5) -- Surbiton (5.0m)
  6) ↑1 Ilford (4.8m)
  7) ↓1 Bromley South (4.6m)
  8) ↑1 Upminster (3.7m)
  9) ↓1 Sutton (3.7m)
10) -- Orpington (3.2m)

As usual the Outer London crown is a comfortable win for East Croydon. Richmond's total of 6½m entries and exits may look small but that's enough to make it the 40th best used station in the entire UK. Ilford overtakes Bromley South thanks to its improved pre-Crossrail services. Northwest London does not appear in this list because it's better served by tube.

London's ten least busy Overground/Crossrail stations (2021/22)
  1) -- Emerson Park (196,000)
-- Acton Main Line (321,000)
-- South Hampstead (339,000)
-- Headstone Lane (346,000)
↑1 South Kenton (419,000)
↓1 Stamford Hill (431,100)
↑1 Penge West (483,000)
↑2 Hatch End (486,000)
↑1 Wandsworth Road (510,000)
↑6 South Acton (518,000)
n.b. Technically Heathrow Terminal 4 is top of this list because it was closed from May 2020 to June 2022 so served zero passengers.

Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line remains at the bottom of the heap, while Acton Main line is still London's least attractive Crossrail station. The second least-used purple station is Hanwell which is in 11th place. The top 10 covers a variety of Overground lines, whereas the next list is a little more focused...

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2021/22)
  1) ↑2 Drayton Green (11000)
  2) -- South Greenford (13000)
  3) ↑1 Sudbury & Harrow Road (15000)
  4) ↑1 Sudbury Hill Harrow (35000)
  5) ↑1 Castle Bar Park (41000)
  6) ↑1 Morden South (54700)
  7) ↑3 Birkbeck (55100)
  8) ↑10 Reedham (69000)
  9) ↑7 Coulsdon Town (86000)
10) ↑13 Woodmansterne (89000)
n.b. Technically Heathrow Terminal 4 is top of this list because it was closed from May 2020 to June 2022 so served zero passengers.

Angel Road and its replacement Meridian Water will not be appearing in this Top 10 again, hence a lot of other stations shuffle up. Drayton Green is London's newest least used station, a position it's never held before. Along with South Greenford and Castle Bar Park it's suffered from the arrival of Crossrail which has severed direct trains to Paddington from the Greenford branch. The two Sudbury stations, regularly skipped by Chiltern trains, are also Top 10 stalwarts. Reedham, Coulsdon Town and Woodmasterne are new entries, perhaps thanks to the withdrawal of direct trains to central London for much of the survey period.

But enough of London.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't in London (2021/22)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (23m)
  2) ↑1 Manchester Piccadilly (20m)
  3) ↑1 Leeds (19m)
  4) ↓2 Glasgow Central (15m)
  5) -- Edinburgh (14m)
  6) ↑1 Brighton (11.2m)
  7) ↑3 Liverpool Central (10.7m)
  8) ↑3 Liverpool Lime Street (10.4m)
  9) ↓1 Reading (8.8m)
10) ↓1 Glasgow Queen Street (8.5m)

Passenger totals have increased more dramatically outside London, often three- or fourfold compared to last year. Birmingham New Street retains top position, with Manchester Piccadilly back into second (and into the national Top 10). Glasgow and Liverpool manage two stations apiece. The big pandemic loser was Gatwick Airport which has slumped from 6th to 17th place due to lack of flyers. Over 200 provincial stations served over a million passengers during 2021/22, a big improvement on the previous year when only 50 stations managed that.

In surprising London/not-London comparisons, West Ham was busier than Sheffield, Lewisham was busier than Nottingham, Ilford was busier than Coventry, Harold Wood was busier than Hull and Finchley Road and Frognal was busier than Portsmouth and Southsea.

The National Rail station with NO passengers in 2021/22
0) Heathrow Terminal 4 [last year 162, previous year 1.75m]

In 2020/21, extraordinarily, six stations saw no passengers. This year it's just the one, the airport station beside a mothballed terminal which closed from May 2020 to June 2022. I think it's best not included on the following list (which is everyone's annual favourite).

The UK's ten least busy National Rail stations (2021/22)
  1) ↑1 Elton and Orston (40)
  2) ↑27 Teesside Airport (42)
  3) -- Stanlow and Thornton (44)
  4) ↑1 Denton (50)
  5) ↑17 Kirton Lindsey (68)
  6) ↑2 Sugar Loaf (76)
  7) ↑3 Shippea Hill (102)
  8) ↑1 Reddish South (108)
  9) ↑3 Coombe Junction Halt (112)
10) ↑9 Scotscalder (116)

These are the stations that can't even muster three passengers a week, such is the inaccessibility of their location or the paucity of their service, and most have appeared in this Top 10 on many previous occasions. It's Elton & Orston's turn to become the UK's Least Used Station, a title it would have held in 2019/20 if only Berney Arms hadn't been closed for 49 weeks. E&O only gets one train a day in each direction, one to Nottingham and one to Skegness, and its paltry total is the equivalent of just 20 round trips.

Teesside Airport, Denton and Reddish South only get one train a week, which explains their regular appearance. Stanlow and Thornton is surrounded by an oil refinery and has been closed since February because its footbridge is unsafe. Kirton Lindsey is a casualty of the protracted 'temporary' closure of the Brigg line which usually runs Saturdays only. Sugar Loaf is the least used station in Wales and similarly-remote Scotscalder is the least used in Scotland. And just to show how quickly things can change at this end of the table, recent champion Berney Arms is no longer even in the Top 50.

In summary, the twelve months covered by these figures were still skewed by pandemic fallout so next year's figures should be a better reflection of passenger demand. But next year's figures will also be the first since the arrival of Crossrail and that's likely to bring a few significant changes to the top of the charts... because on the railways there's no such thing as a normal year.

» Rail passenger data here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» Previous updates: 20/21, 19/20, 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

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