Every year the ORR publishes station usage data which provides a fascinating insight into use of the rail sector. The latest figures for 2009-10 have just been published and while they come with some caveats about the reliability of the data they are still worthy of analysis.
According to the data 2.13billion entries and exits were made through 2,525 stations (that is 1.065bn people used the network) in 2009-10. That is down by 0.8% over 2008-9 which is not bad given the severity of the recession but there are huge discrepancies across the network as well as massive variances between stations.
So while some 100 million movements were made in, out and interchanging at London Waterloo and Waterloo East, Coombe in Devon achieved only 42. And this discrepancy between stations is one of the first factors that strikes you. The least used 800 stations handle only 1% of the passengers on the network begging the question as to whether the present McNulty review will grasp the nettle and suggest the widespread closure of such lightly used stations.
It is clear that the recession has impacted the various parts of the country and their train operating companies (TOCs) in very different ways. The following council areas saw increases of more than 10% in patronage: Aberdeenshire, Ceredigion, Stoke-on-Trent, Clackmannan, Torfaen, Cumbria (helped by the free rail service and temporary station at Workington North to link the two sides of Workington which were severed by the loss of the road bridge over the River Derwent in November 2009) and Merthyr Tydfil. While North Rutland and Luton saw a 10% reduction in patronage (the later impacted by the collapse in charter passengers at Luton Airport).
Looking at rail use at a county level throws up some surprises. Whilst the dominance of Greater London is not unexpected, perhaps the large numbers travelling in the UK’s major conurbations compared to the London commuter belt challenges some commentators perceptions that rail is solely important in London and the south east.
Number of rail journeys starting and or finishing by county
So who in this analysis are the winners and losers among the TOCs. The numbers going through Virgin’s station is still being helped by the step change in service on the West Coast Main Line while Chiltern and C2C reap the benefits of their highly performing services. The other London TOCs have not performed so well hit by a downturn the economy which is also evident by the small reduction going through Network Rail stations where the numbers are dominated by the London termini. Traffic in Wales and Scotland seemed to have done well unlike in Merseyside where passenger numbers have markedly fallen. Finally spare a thought for Prestwick Airport the privately owned station serving the airport which like Luton has been badly hit by a reduction in airline passengers.
Number of rail journeys starting and or finishing by TOC managed stations
|Virgin Trains (West Coast)||4.5%|
|Arriva Trains Wales||3.0%|
|East Midlands Trains||2.6%|
|First TransPennine Express||1.7%|
|London Midland Trains||1.4%|
|First Great Western||-0.6%|
|South West Trains||-1.5%|
|South West Trains (Island Line)||-2.3%|
|First Capital Connect||-3.2%|
|National Express East Anglia||-5.4%|
|Glasgow Prestwick Airport||-19.5%|