by Phil Marsh

Record passenger numbers and record rail receipts - our trains just get busier and busier

Published: 21st December 2014

Rail usage demonstrates why investment is based on London and the southeast

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has released the latest statistics about rail usage and they yet again show that record numbers of passengers are being carried on our railways. Passengers are also collectively paying more and more as record ticket receipts demonstrate.

In the last financial year, ending in April 2014, 1.59 billion passenger journeys were made in Great Britain on franchised train services. This was an increase of 5.7% over the previous year and was the highest officially recorded number since the current monitoring began in 2002-03.

More train kilometres were operated as well with a combined total of 524.8 million kilometres for all UK passenger operators, an increase of 0.5% over the previous year. But since consistent monitoring began, the distance has increased by a huge 17%.

Big ticket purchase price

Passengers paid a whopping £8.20 billion for tickets in 2013/4 to the franchised passenger operators, yet another record representing an increase of 6.4% over the previous financial year.

The increase continued into the current financial year when between July and September 2014 when just under 408 million franchised passenger journeys were made, an increase of 4.4% over a year earlier. Receipts for these journeys was £2.2 billion, up by 7.1% against the previous year and was the highest revenue taken for any quarter.

Even the open access (non-franchised) train operators took record revenue in the same period collecting £15.7million.

Why does the southeast get more rail investment?

These ORR statistics create a picture which can be interpreted as why investment is centred on London and the surrounding commuter routes when based on usage and revenue generated.

London and South East passengers paid £1.1 billion in Quarter 2 for this financial year, up by 6.8% against last year. Long distance passenger revenue also increased by 6.8% in the same period generating £740 million. Franchised regional operators generated £339.2 million, a huge 9% increase on the same quarter last year and as with the other sectors, was another record.

Some of the regional increase is due to the massive expansion of First Transpennine who increased their mileage by 17% with the new May 2014 timetable adding 0.75 million timetabled train kilometres in the second quarter.

The European perspective

The UK’s railways are also doing well in usage and growth terms when compared to European railways. In 2013, passengers travelled 62 billion passenger kilometres in the UK, the third highest number of passenger kilometres of the countries in the European Union, only beaten by France and Germany.

The UK 17% passenger increase is the second highest in the EU just behind Austria which had an 18% increase but given the smaller size of the Austrian rail network, in absolute numbers the UK has seen the biggest increase in passenger kilometres since 2008.

Since passenger kilometres began to be consistently measured in 2002/3, the annual total has increased from 39.7billion to 59.7 billion in the last financial year, an increase of 50.5%.

The top ten UK stations…

Two stations were opened in the last year, at Energlyn & Churchill Park and Stratford Parkway bringing the total to 2537. The top ten UK stations were;

Waterloo with 98,442,742 passengers, an increase of 3%

Victoria with 81,356,330 passengers, an increase of 5%

Liverpool Street with 63,004,002 passengers, an increase of 8%

London Bridge with 56,442,044 passengers, an increase of 6%

Euston with 41,911,706 passengers, an increase of 9%

Charing Cross with 40,170,074 passengers, an increase of 4%

Paddington with 35,093,628 passengers, an increase of 3%

Birmingham New Street with 34,748,984 passengers, an increase of 8%

King's Cross with 29,823,715 passengers, an increase of 5%

Leeds with 27,729,453 passengers, an increase of 6%

These top ten stations accounted for 19% of all journeys and Leeds overtook Glasgow Central to join the top 10. This change is partly due to a methodological change of compiling statistics rather than reflecting real changes in demand.

Euston had the strongest growth in percentage terms at 9% but this was dwarfed at a couple of other stations, Stratford (London) and Clapham High Street probably due to growth in passengers connecting with other rail services at these stations. The latter station saw an amazing 136% increase due to new services calling there.

All change at Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction remained the busiest interchange station with nearly 27 million passengers, well over five times the amount at Birmingham New Street, reckoned to be the heart of the UK railway.

All passenger operators experienced an increase in their passenger numbers with the exception of Island Line which carried 1.4 million passengers, a reduction of 9% due to a long term closure after storm damage in December 2013/January 2014.

All change at Bedford!

Some other statistical collection changes resulted in startling differences at groups of stations sharing a common ticketing system location.

One such place is Bedford which has Bedford St. Johns, a typical small unstaffed halt, close to the neighbouring Bedford Midland. They share a common revenue identification location and Bedford Midland saw official passenger numbers decline 4% from 3,448,926 to 3,303,270

Under a mile away at the single two car single platform Bedford St.Johns halt, official passenger numbers increased from 9,320 to 154,976, an increase of 1563%! This is because of a more accurate method of allocating rail journeys and as St. Johns carries Bedford’s school traffic of 100 pupils a day, the former annual usage statistics of under 10,000 were clearly incorrect.

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