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Author Topic: Station Usage figures - Wiltshire - with some analysis  (Read 547 times)
grahame
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« on: November 29, 2022, 01:05:43 pm »



Rail passenger numbers (station entries and exits) from the year April 2021 to March 2022 have just been published.  Here is a table of the estimated numbers for all railway station in Wiltshire, and also for nearby stations which people commonly use as railheads for Wiltshire.

Raw numbers tell us little - they need to be put into context. So I have added columns of numbers for
- number of journeys 25 years ago (1997) - the earliest for which stats are available
- number of journeys ten years ago (2012) - to give a comparison over that last ten years
- number of journeys to March 2020 - to give the latest (often peak) figure before Covid
- number of journeys to March 2021 - showing how numbers fell during Covid lockdowns
- number of journeys to March 2022 - showing some recovery, but it will be noted that these numbers are now over six months old and there have been considerable travel and national events which may mean that things have changed again in the last six months!!

A good measure of the success, or otherwise, of the promotion of appropriate train services is to look at how passenger numbers have grown over the years, or have withstood national events. The following three columns look at growth (or otherwise) over the last 25, 10 and 2 years. So taking the Melksham example which I have highlighted on the chart, we have grown to 1353% of our 1997 figure - 13.5 passengers for every one we had a quarter of a century ago.  4.5 times what we had a decade ago, but only 69% of what we were two years ago pre-covid.

The final two columns show journeys per person per annum - the number of passenger journeys taken per head of population each year.  It's a measure of how much the railway has become / is an integral part of the town's life.  So on average a Trowbridge resident will make 17 jourieys by train a year, but a Melksham resident will make just two (and that's 4 times what it was a decade ago!)

What does the data reveal?

1. Passenger numbers were back up to about two thirds of their preCovid level in the year to March 2022. But in almost every case, that number is considerably more than it was 25 years ago.

2. Covid recovery has been noticeably slower at stations with major London commuter flows - Grateley, Swindon, Pewsey, Bedwyn, Chippenham.  Recovery has been best at Frome, Warminster and Westbury which are perhaps not the traditional commuter stations; I also note Avoncliff and Dean up there, where the numbers are small and the traffic is strongly leisure

3. Journeys per head of population per annum remain in excess of 10 journeys right across the county - a number are in excess of 30 journeys indicating perhaps a town heavily reliant on its railways.  Only Frome (just outside the county, included as a railhead) and Melksham have significantly lower figures, and I note that these are the only two towns for which this statistic is provided that have infrequent and erratic trains - all the others have a pattern that runs at least once an hour.

4. Growth at Melksham has been massive compared to any other station over the years - now at 452% of what it was a decade ago which is nearly 4 times the growth of anywhere else.  However, it started from such a low point that passenger number remain truly appalling.  Previous work suggests that the numbers would grow to a similar level as (say) Warminster - that's 5 times the current numbers / quarter of a million journeys a year should a reliable hourly train service, from early morning to late evening 7 days a week.
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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2022, 02:55:51 pm »

Point one is incredibly important.  I think overall total journeys will stabilise (and hopefully slowly grow) at levels we were seeing quite recently, i.e. well into this century. 

Yes, there will be a permanent significant hit on five day a week commuting, and a little on business travel, but on other flows it’s clearly more popular than ever and I suspect long distance office visits for a day or two have risen massively - something the likes of HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)) can help cater for. 

However growth elsewhere needs nurturing and not strangling by policy decisions and the other issues which make it hard to be a member of the ‘railway family’ at the moment.
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« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2022, 03:38:21 pm »

The worrying figures are the 10 year ones, which in the vast majority of cases are similar to post-Covid recovery figures. In other words, almost every station has seen a decline in traffic over the last ten years. Some are now at barely half the passenger numbers of a decade ago. That these are so similar to the two-year comparisons suggests flatling usage over the last ten years.
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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2022, 04:33:11 pm »

The worrying figures are the 10 year ones, which in the vast majority of cases are similar to post-Covid recovery figures. In other words, almost every station has seen a decline in traffic over the last ten years. Some are now at barely half the passenger numbers of a decade ago. That these are so similar to the two-year comparisons suggests flatling usage over the last ten years.

You have to bear in mind the period these figures are for though.  Usage from Spring this year onwards has shot up but won’t be reflected in data until next years release.
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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2022, 09:37:25 pm »

According to the ORR» (Office of Rail and Road formerly Office of Rail Regulation - about), A total of 332 million rail passenger journeys were made in Great Britain in the latest quarter (1 April to 30 June 2022). This equates to 75.8% of the 437 million journeys in the same quarter three years ago (pre-pandemic).

Revenue at around 70% of the same quarter.

Revenue from season ticket sales at around a quarter of pre pandemic levels.

That's a huge hole in the finances.

Does make you wonder how inflation busting pay rises will be financed.
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2022, 02:19:06 am »

According to the ORR» (Office of Rail and Road formerly Office of Rail Regulation - about), A total of 332 million rail passenger journeys were made in Great Britain in the latest quarter (1 April to 30 June 2022). This equates to 75.8% of the 437 million journeys in the same quarter three years ago (pre-pandemic).

Revenue at around 70% of the same quarter.

Revenue from season ticket sales at around a quarter of pre pandemic levels.

That's a huge hole in the finances.

Does make you wonder how inflation busting pay rises will be financed.

I don't think anyone bar the odd cheeky union rep is expecting anything vaguely close to an inflation busting pay rise.  Though from my point of view, an offer of something would be nice after three years of nothing.

The usage stats you quote reinforce my point up-thread quite nicely.  332 million journeys in the first quarter repeated over the year is 1.328bn which is just shy of the total recorded as recently as 2010/11 (1.350bn) and well over double the amount recorded back in the dark days of the early 80s (0.630bn in 1982).  I remember well the Network Rail 'Thanks A Billion' posters of 2004 crowing about how we'd gone back through the 1bn mark for the first time since the early 1960s.  The 332 million also includes the impact of three strike days, and I will be very interested to see how the next quarter holds up when much more action was taken.

Three dark clouds might rain on further recovery.  Firstly, we don't know how long, and how much more damage, the industrial action is going to cause.  We don't know how much the fares are going to rise next year.  And, perhaps most importantly, we don't know how many people won't be able to justify the cost of travel when the cost of living crisis really starts to bite over winter. 

In any event, it's a quite remarkable recovery IMHO (in my humble opinion), given the loss of commuter and business travellers.
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2022, 07:45:56 am »

The high figure for journeys per person from Bath is presumably skewed by the numbers of tourists buying tickets from here. However, it is also skewed in the opposite way as Bath's other station, Oldfield Park, isn't included, and may well more than balance the tourist figure. So Bath's reliance on trains by residents is notable, and shows what having a station in the centre of the town and accessible to most does.

It would be interesting to see what Bristol Temple Meads figure is, and how total usage across Bristol including all suburban stations compares.

Incidentally Freshford's population, according to Wikipedia, is about 550 in the parish, which reasonably covers the area that is likely to use the station. So their journey per person would have been about 70 in 2012 and 65 in 2022.
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2022, 10:15:47 am »

The high figure for journeys per person from Bath is presumably skewed by the numbers of tourists buying tickets from here. However, it is also skewed in the opposite way as Bath's other station, Oldfield Park, isn't included, and may well more than balance the tourist figure. So Bath's reliance on trains by residents is notable, and shows what having a station in the centre of the town and accessible to most does.

Yeah, all sorts of skews.  Of course, with Bath the tourist journeys are very much a part of the economy of the area, just as the commuter, school traffic, university traffic (are students counted in population?)  so the figures for journeys per person per annum are a very rough measure indeed.  The measure works well for comparisons between towns of significant size which are well delineated with just a single station; that's why I have not attempted to provide a comparative statistic for places like Avoncliff or Freshford

Quote
It would be interesting to see what Bristol Temple Meads figure is, and how total usage across Bristol including all suburban stations compares.

Incidentally Freshford's population, according to Wikipedia, is about 550 in the parish, which reasonably covers the area that is likely to use the station. So their journey per person would have been about 70 in 2012 and 65 in 2022.

Here is a table for all the WECA» (West of England Combined Authority - about) stations - I have not attempted to assign population catchments to any of the stations but can re-run the program for you if you would like to supply numbers.

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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2022, 11:32:15 am »

As further context, I have run the same analysis for Cornwall.



Some incredible figures here, bearing in mind that they look at recovery LAST year and are showing passenger numbers back up and surpassing the pre-covid levels in many places across the county.  Many reasons I could list, but highlighting the promotional work done on Community Rail lines in Cornwall.
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