diamond geezer

 Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What's the most popular journey between tube stations?

We can answer this question courtesy of an FOI request published yesterday. The data is
a) for journeys in the calendar year 2023
b) from one tube station to another
c) made using Oyster or contactless

We have had similar spreadsheets before, but this is the first
a) covering a full calendar year
b) including all journeys
c) post-Crossrail

The most popular journey is from Liverpool Street to Tottenham Court Road.
It was made by 1,319,965 passengers last year.
That's about 3600 people a day.

In second place is Tottenham Court Road to Liverpool Street.
It was made by 1,158,447 passengers last year.
That's 14% fewer than in the opposite direction.

There's a catch here, which is that we can't tell whether people made a tube journey or a Crossrail journey. The latter is quicker, just two stops, whereas on the Central line it's five. But once you're through the barriers at Liverpool Street nobody's counting which way you go, only where you end up. So these may be indeed be the most popular journeys between tube stations, but they're not the most popular tube journeys.

The most popular tube journey is from Victoria to Oxford Circus on the Victoria line.
It was made by 1,106,662 passengers last year.
That's about 3000 people a day.

Here are the top 10 most popular journeys.

The Waterloo and City line takes 4th and 5th place.
It's only open 5 days a week, so that's about 4000 people a day.

Oxford Circus and the Victoria line account for half of the top 10.

Brixton to Oxford Circus is the only other journey to top 1 million passengers.
Direction matters - journeys towards Oxford Circus are more popular than journeys heading away.

This diagram shows the top 20 most popular journeys.

Six of the top journeys are on the Victoria line and six on the Jubilee line. It's probably not a coincidence that these are the two most recent tube lines, deliberately planned for optimal connections.

There's also a Central/Crossrail group, the entire Waterloo & City line and two other journeys to King's Cross. Don't read too much into the one-way arrows, they're essentially a consequence of chopping the list at 20.

Stations which start cropping up in the next 20 most popular journeys include Bond Street, Paddington, Farringdon and Finsbury Park. All of the top 100 journeys can be made without changing trains.

Now here's a better question.

What's the least popular journey between two tube stations?

The FoI spreadsheet has 73006 rows and lists every combination of stations down to journeys made by just one passenger. For example only one person went from Rickmansworth to Hanger Lane last year, and only one person went from Upney to North Ealing. But the spreadsheet doesn't list the zeroes, so I've had to bash the data further to try to spot all the combinations that aren't included.

I've discovered that absolutely nobody travelled from Burnt Oak to Chorleywood last year nor from Croxley to Perivale, nor from Grange Hill to Park Royal. Altogether there are 166 such journeys, all of which are technically the least popular. I don't intend to list them all here.

However one person did travel from Chorleywood to Burnt Oak, one from Perivale to Croxley and three from Park Royal to Grange Hill. Some of the zeroes are better zeroes than others.

So what I've done is check which journeys had no passengers in both directions.

There are only 31 of these.
Allow me to sort them into four groups to show you what's going on.
Journeys involving the tube's least used station
Roding Valley ↔ Hillingdon, Roding Valley ↔ Kenton, Roding Valley ↔ Moor Park, Roding Valley ↔ North Ealing, Roding Valley ↔ Northwood, Roding Valley ↔ Ruislip

Journeys involving South Kenton station
South Kenton ↔ Ealing Common, South Kenton ↔ North Ealing, South Kenton ↔ Sudbury Town, South Kenton ↔ Theydon Bois, South Kenton ↔ Upminster Bridge, South Kenton ↔ West Ruislip

Journeys involving stations on the West Ruislip branch of the Central line
West Ruislip ↔ Croxley, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Chesham, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Chorleywood, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Croxley, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Moor Park, Ruislip Gardens ↔ North Harrow, Ruislip Gardens ↔ North Wembley, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Rickmansworth, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Watford, Ruislip Gardens ↔ Sudbury Hill, South Ruislip ↔ Chesham

Journeys involving stations on the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly line
Ickenham ↔ Chigwell, Ickenham ↔ Grange Hill, Ickenham ↔ West Acton, North Ealing ↔ Chigwell, North Ealing ↔ Grange Hill, North Ealing ↔ North Wembley, North Ealing ↔ Stonebridge Park, Hanger Lane ↔ Chorleywood
Six of the 31 zero-passenger pairings involve piddly little Roding Valley, the tube's least used station.
Another six involve South Kenton, a lowly station almost at the end of the Bakerloo line.
The remainder all involve non-intersecting lines in northwest London.

You wouldn't normally choose to travel between the tips of the Central line and Piccadilly line by tube, you'd go an alternative way. Travelling between the two lines without tapping out involves a seriously convoluted journey which people just don't make. Indeed in these cases we know absolutely nobody did.

That said, apparently 41 people travelled from West Ruislip to Ickenham, which any sensible person would do as a 10 minute walk. Elsewhere 83 people made the similarly pointless journey from Kenton to Northwick Park, and 53 the ludicrous journey from Hanger Lane to Park Royal. There's nowt so strange as people.

In summary
» The most popular journey between two tube stations is Liverpool Street to Tottenham Court Road.
» The most popular tube journey is Victoria to Oxford Circus.
» There are 166 tube journeys nobody made last year.
» There are 31 pairs of tube stations nobody travelled between last year.

If you want to make sure some of these journeys do have a passenger in 2024, nothing's stopping you.

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