As rail passengers prepare for the next series of national rail strikes, beginning on Saturday, figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) reveal the scale of the collapse of train travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Between April 2021 and March 2022, the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, saw passenger numbers more than halve compared with two years earlier – down from 87 million to 41 million.
The report says four railway stations in the Midlands and North of England saw fewer than 50 passengers – under one a week.
The least-used was Elton & Orston in Nottinghamshire, with just 40 entries and exits. It is on the Nottingham to Skegness line and is served by one daily train each way.
Teesside Airport, on the Tees Valley line east of Darlington, saw 42 passengers – up from just two the previous year. But the station has been closed since May 2022 due to safety concerns.
Even when it is opened, passengers are warned: “Although this station is close to Durham Tees Valley Airport it is served by only one train a week in one direction only.
“Customers travelling to/from the airport are advised to take the bus to/from Darlington or Middlesbrough stations.”
The third-placed station, Stanlow & Thornton in Cheshire, welcomed 44 passengers – an average of one a week until it, too, closed in February. Prospective users are told: “Stanlow & Thornton station is closed until further notice due to urgent repairs to a bridge.”
The station, five miles north of Chester, is located within the Shell Oil Refinery. In the previous 12 months, no passengers used it at all.
The final station that failed to reach even one traveller a week was Denton in Greater Manchester.
Given the warning to prospective passengers – “This station has an extremely sparse train service of only one train a week (on Fridays) and this only runs in the northbound direction” – an annual score of 50 is perhaps impressive.
More passengers used London Waterloo in two minutes than visited those four stations combined in the course of a year.
London Victoria retained its position as the second most-used station with 36.8 million entries and exits, while London Bridge stayed third with 33.3 million.
The only two stations in the top 10 that are outside the capital are Birmingham New Street (eighth) and Manchester Piccadilly (10th).
In Scotland, Glasgow Central remained the most used station, with 15.3 million entries and exits, just ahead of Edinburgh Waverley (13.6 million).
In Wales, Cardiff Central remained the busiest station with 7.5 million – four times more than the second best, Newport.
The least-used Welsh station was Sugar Loaf, on the Heart of Wales line in Powys, which welcomed only 76 passengers – barely one every five days.
Train drivers working for 11 train operators will strike on Saturday 26 November, with eight days of national strikes planned for December and January by the RMT union.
Top 10 UK railway stations
Passenger entries and exits between April 2021 and March 2022:
- London Waterloo: 41,426,042
- London Victoria: 36,776,338
- London Bridge: 33,309,348
- London Liverpool Street: 32,165,310
- Stratford (London): 28,182,238
- London Paddington: 23,870,510
- London Euston: 23,097,606
- Birmingham New Street: 22,682,526
- London Kings Cross: 20,476,492
- Manchester Piccadilly: 19,581,442
Source: Office of Rail and Road