by Phil Marsh

Britain’s use of railways continues to break all records

Published: 11th March 2014

Waterloo is the UK’s busiest station

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has many important functions and one of them is to provide an unbiased and reliable set of UK rail statistics. Their latest work covers the year 2013-14 Q3 (1 October-31 December), and shows that we made a record number of passenger journeys on Britain's railways.

The ORR’s 'Passenger Rail Usage' report looks at passenger numbers and receipts and has done so since the financial year 2002-03. These reports demonstrate that rail usage in Britain has been relentlessly growing over the past decade.

The vital statistics

Passenger journeys in the last three months of 2013 totalled 402.8 million, the highest number of passenger journeys on franchised services ever recorded but more significantly, an increase of 4.5% over the same period 12 months earlier.

So how far does ORR reckon passengers travelled by rail in the three months? A whopping 15.1 billion kilometres which is 2.8% more than the last three months in 2012 and again, was a record number since ORR records began.

How much did passengers pay in total? The answer ORR says is £2.08 billion which was 6.2% over a year ago and yet again, this was the highest amount of revenue taken since records began.

Why the records?

Who can say for sure, but ORR suggests that there are several possible factors which are driving the thirst for rail travel. Obviously new lines opening creates a new growth area as does the opening of more stations, and upgrading others, such as Kings Cross and Reading.

The West Coast Main Line upgrade has driven growth on this route and when the electrification projects just signed are completed, further spectacular growth can be expected.

More and more trains are being operated alongside more marketing promotions by train companies. For example, Chiltern Railways is taking on Virgin for the London to Birmingham market with their new ‘Mainline’ service and also running more Sunday trains to Marylebone from The Chilterns.

Transpennine Express share Anglo-Scottish routes with East Coast Trains and Virgin. London Midland, despite its staffing problems, has introduced new 110mph services and this has created more rail ridership.

It has only been the amount of passenger journeys which fell in 2009-10 when season ticket journeys fell due to the recession, but this has been the only negative number in a decade and journeys have continued to grow since then.

Train numbers

ORR says that scheduled train operations increased when measured in train kilometres 0.4% but the largest increase in franchised services was by London Overground with a 6.5% increase in its timetabled train kilometres. This has to be something to do with new lines being opened between Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction.

There are a number of what are called open access operators and their timetabled operating kilometres increased by 4.3% compared to 2012-13 Q3. This is partly due to Grand Central trains operating an additional daily service between Hartlepool and King's Cross from December 2012.

London Commuters

The London commuter market generated 7.2 billion passenger kilometres up by 3.8% over a year ago while long distance franchised operators had the lowest growth rate of the three sectors with a 1.1% increase. This sector suffered a 2.5% reduction in passenger kilometres travelled thought to be as a result of the bad weather.

Franchised regional services generated 2.9 billion passenger kilometres which was up by 2.2% helped by an increase in advance ticket travel.

Advance bargains?

Advance purchase ticket revenue rose by 8.8%, the largest increase ever. Season ticket receipts raised £523 million, another record showing a strong 7.7% increase. Over £1.0 billion was taken in the London & Southeast area, another record and growth remains strong perhaps ORR says, driven by regeneration and shopping at Stratford.

Long distance franchised services revenue rose by 4.6% to £699 million and this was despite a reduction in growth due to the weather but helped by fares’ rises. Regional franchises took £323 million, a 6.8% increase and was the highest amount of revenue ever generated in any quarter. The majority of the revenue for this sector comes from the anytime/Peak travel tickets.

Waterloo retains top spot in the UK as the most heavily used station

London’s Waterloo remains the most heavily used station in Britain racking up an estimated 96 million passenger entries and exits in 2012-2013, up by 1.8m (or 1.9%) compared to 2011-12. This was revealed in another statistical exercise by ORR

Their UK station usage report covers April 2012 to March 2013 and also shows that the number of people using stations increased by over 82m or 3.3% over the previous year. The top ten most used stations is unchanged from the previous year with eight of the top 10 in London.

All 10 recorded an increase in usage, but Euston’s traffic grew the most with 1.8million more entries and exits reflecting the increasing demand for London Overground services. The Olympic

Top 10 most used stations in England, Scotland and Wales based on estimated entries and exits

Station 2012-13 entries & exits 2011-12 entries & exits % change GB rank 2012-13 GB rank 2011-12

Waterloo 95,936,542 94,127,282 1.9 1 1

Victoria 77,346,676 76,163,428 1.6 2 2

Liverpool Street 58,448,814 57,105,400 2.4 3 3

London Bridge 53,351,116 52,603,158 1.4 4 4

Charing Cross 38,607,238 38,113,546 1.3 5 5

Euston 38,299,206 36,520,544 4.9 6 6

Paddington 34,143,220 33,709,272 1.3 7 7

Birmingham New Street 32,090,346 31,235,638 2.7 8 8

King's Cross 28,454,460 27,840,484 2.2 9 9

Glasgow Central 27,185,020 26,610,016 2.2 10 10

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