diamond geezer

 Friday, December 15, 2023

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 2022 to March 2023. After a couple of years of freakish statistics we've finally left the pandemic behind, with its subdued commuting, reduced timetables and advice to minimise travel.

Instead the bombshell of Crossrail has struck, with the new purple line opening very near to the start of the twelve month period (and Bond Street landing roughly halfway). Any interchange between tube and Crossrail counts as entering or exiting a National Rail station so some mighty distortions are skewing the numbers.

This is a first - the ten busiest stations are all in London.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations (2022/23) (with changes since 2021/22)
  1) ↑3 Liverpool Street (80m)
  2) ↑4 Paddington (59m)
  3) ↓2 Waterloo (58m)
  4) ↓1 London Bridge (48m)
  5) ↓3 Victoria (46m)
  6) ↓1 Stratford (44m)
  7) ↑↑ Tottenham Court Road (35m)
  8) ↑4 St Pancras (33m)
  9) ↑29 Farringdon (31.5m)
10) ↓3 Euston (31.3m)

See how Crossrail has shaken up this list! Half of the top 10 are Crossrail stations, with the arrival of purple trains displacing the usual trio of Waterloo, London Bridge and Victoria from the summit. Liverpool Street takes the crown for the first time, its complement of commuters boosted by through services on the Elizabeth line. And with 80 million passengers it's massively ahead of the rest of the pack, with London Paddington not quite managing 60m. Waterloo may never regain its crown again.

Stratford, which enjoyed a chart-topping year during the pandemic, settles in sixth place boosted by the arrival of direct Crossrail services. It's still a very impressive ranking for a station outside central London. As for Tottenham Court Road, it wasn't even a National Rail station at the start of the survey period but suddenly wham, seventh place overall. Farringdon's giant leap can be explained by its new status as the sole link between Crossrail and Thameslink - 38th last year, ninth this.

If you're wondering about other Crossrail stations in the listings, Whitechapel is 14th and Bond Street is 19th - an impressive showing given its purple platforms only opened in November. Further out Romford (32nd) unexpectedly has more passengers than Canary Wharf (38th), then come Ilford (43rd), Woolwich (47th), Ealing Broadway (48th), Abbey Wood (52nd), Hayes and Harlington (74th) and Custom House (80th).

And if you're interested in comparing London's rail termini, the ranking is Liverpool Street > Paddington > Waterloo > London Bridge > Victoria > St Pancras > Euston > King's Cross > Charing Cross > Blackfriars > Marylebone > Fenchurch Street > Cannon Street. All but Cannon Street are in the national Top 40.

The UK's ten busiest National Rail stations outside London (2022/23)
  1) -- Birmingham New Street (31m)
  2) ↑1 Leeds (24m)
  3) ↓1 Manchester Piccadilly (23m)
  4) -- Glasgow Central (21m)
  5) -- Edinburgh (18m)
  6) ↑11 Gatwick Airport (17m)
  7) ↓1 Brighton (14m)
  8) ↑1 Reading (13m)
  9) ↑1 Glasgow Queen Street (12m)
10) ↓3 Liverpool Central (11m)

Poor old Birmingham New Street has always been in the national top 10 before but Crossrail has nudged it out. It's still in 11th place overall, with Leeds 12th and Manchester Piccadilly 13th. The big climber is Gatwick Airport, thanks to overseas flights returning to normal following pandemic slowdown, although all it's really done is bounce back up to its usual place in the list. Liverpool Lime Street is on the cusp of the top 10, just 30,000 passengers behind its Merseyside counterpart.

Over 250 provincial stations served over a million passengers during 2022/23, fifty more than in the previous year. For comparison about 200 London stations exceeded a million passengers. In surprising London/not-London comparisons, West Ham was busier than Sheffield, Shoreditch High Street was busier than Nottingham, Surbiton was busier than Coventry, Hither Green was busier than Hull and Purley was busier than Plymouth.

London's ten busiest National Rail stations that aren't central London termini or part of Crossrail (2022/23)
  1) ↑1 Clapham Junction (20.8m)
  2) ↓1 Highbury & Islington (20.6m)
  3) -- East Croydon (18.5m)
  4) -- Canada Water (16.2m)
  5) -- Vauxhall (13.0m)
  6) -- Barking (12.7m)
  7) -- Wimbledon (11.7m)
  8) -- West Ham (9.1m)
  9) -- Finsbury Park (8.6mm)
10) -- Richmond (7.9m)

Once you strip out the central London termini a rather different picture appears and the top of the list is 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] and Canada Water [Jubilee]. Clapham Junction's total would almost double if the data included interchanges.

London's ten least busy Overground stations (2022/23)
  1) -- Emerson Park (240,000)
↑1 Headstone Lane (386,000)
↓1 South Hampstead (395,000)
↑↑ Barking Riverside (483,000)
↓1 South Kenton (502,000)
↓1 Stamford Hill (524,100)
-- Hatch End (544,000)
-- Wandsworth Road (570,000)
↓3 Penge West (609,000)
↓1 South Acton (615,000)

Emerson Park on the runty Romford-Upminster line remains at the bottom of the Overground heap, by some distance. The biggest change in this list is the arrival of Barking Riverside which opened in July 2022. It's only had nine months of traffic, and a full year might have been enough to knock it just outside the bottom 10, but it's still a fairly tumbleweed existence for a brand new extension. By this time next year the six Overground lines should have been individually named, and it's interesting that this list contains at least one station from each line.

London's ten least busy National Rail stations (2022/23)
  1) -- Drayton Green (16000)
  2) ↑1 Sudbury & Harrow Road (20000)
  3) ↓1 South Greenford (21000)
  4) -- Sudbury Hill Harrow (48000)
  5) ↑1 Morden South (61700)
  6) ↓1 Castle Bar Park (67000)
  7) -- Birkbeck (71000)
  8) -- Reedham (97000)
  9) -- Coulsdon Town (100000)
10) ↑1 Crews Hill (104000)

Drayton Green retains its position as London's least used station, a position it gained for the first time last year. It's only a short walk from West Ealing, and along with South Greenford and Castle Bar Park on the Greenford branch has suffered from the arrival of Crossrail which has severed direct trains to Paddington. The two Sudbury stations, regularly skipped by Chiltern trains, are also Top 5 stalwarts. Reedham and Coulsdon Town are suffering from a post-pandemic reduction in services on the Tattenham Corner line and are recent arrivals to this list.

The next 20: South Merton, Woodmansterne, Greenford, Knockholt, St Helier, Sundridge Park, Belmont, Northolt Park, South Ruislip, West Ruislip, Bromley North, Ravensbourne, Meridian Water, Riddlesdown, West Sutton, Sutton Common, Wimbledon Chase, Emerson Park, Kenley, Haydons Road

And now outside London...

The National Rail station with NO passengers in 2022/23
0) Stanlow and Thornton [this year 0, last year 44]

In 2020/21, extraordinarily, six stations saw no passengers. Last year it was just one, Heathrow Terminal 4, and this year another station scores the big zero. It's Stanlow & Thornton, the Cheshire halt that's entirely surrounded by the UK's second largest oil refinery. It only used to get a few peak services but has been temporarily closed since February 2022 "due to safety concerns of the footbridge which is the only entry point to the station". Given that the station last exceeded two passengers per week in 2016, it's hard to see anyone stumping up for repairs.

Another station which closed "temporarily" is top of the next list (which is everyone's annual favourite).

The UK's ten least busy National Rail stations (2022/23)
  1) ↑1 Teesside Airport (2)
  2) ↑2 Denton (34)
  3) ↓2 Elton and Orston (56)
  4) ↑1 Kirton Lindsey (94)
  5) ↑3 Reddish South (100)
  6) ↑3 Coombe Junction Halt (120)
  7) ↑3 Scotscalder (124)
  8) ↑12 Ince and Elton (130)
  9) ↓2 Shippea Hill (142)
10) ↑5 Kildonan (178)

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, and most have appeared in this Top 10 on many previous occasions. Indeed it's not Teesside Airport's first appearance as the UK's least used station, it was also bottom of the heap in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. For years it's been served by just one train a week in one direction only, purely as a Parliamentary service, plus it's not exactly convenient for airport access anyway. Its footbridge closed in 2017, then in May 2022 the sole accessible platform closed due to safety issues and all services were suspended. Only two(!) people are recorded as visiting Teesside Airport station last year, and must have turned up on a Sunday in April, little realising they'd be the last passengers for some time.

Denton and Reddish South get only one train a week, which explains their regular appearance in this list. Elton & Orston is served by just one train a day in each direction, one to Nottingham and one to Skegness, and was last year's least used station. Kirton Lindsey is a casualty of the protracted 'temporary' closure of the Brigg line. This usually ran on Saturdays only, but since May has been granted two weekday trains instead so may disappear from next year's list. Coombe Junction and Shippea Hill are both back in the doldrums after a brief bump in visitors inspired by being a least used station. Scotscalder is the least used station in Scotland. Ince and Elton is Stanlow and Thornton's underwhelmed neighbour.

The next 20: Beasdale, Lochluichart, Polesworth, Chapelton, Clifton, Invershin, Altnabreac, Achanalt, Brigg, Culrain, Ardwick, Pilning, Buckenham, Hensall, Spooner Row, Thorpe Culvert, Sugar Loaf, Acklington, Kinbrace, Rawcliffe

Altogether 36 stations failed to attract 10 passengers a week and 148 stations failed to attract 10 passengers a day. But just to show how quickly things can change at this end of the table, recent champion Berney Arms is no longer even in the Bottom 50, while lowly Breich was rebuilt in 2019 and gained an hourly service so is now well outside the lowest 5%. There's always hope... unless your footbridge fails a safety inspection and nobody can be bothered to replace it.

» Rail passenger data here (total annual entry and exit frequencies)
» Previous updates: 21/22, 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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